Remembering to Forget.
I don't own Gundam Wing. Although owning Duo could be interesting (grin).
This is the product of suffering college exams so it's extremely angsty. It also features DID (dissociative identity disorder) or spilt personalities. It got this idea in Psychology so I at least know why I'll fail that class.
Contains attempted suicide, suggestions of attempted rape (no graphic details) and self-starvation. Sappy in places, close relations between boys. Suggested 1+2.
Small thin fingers caressed metal, touching the moulded grip, stroking the familiar handle as it slid into a warm palm. Into a hand that had grasped the icy weapon before, had wielded it against faceless enemies. Purified ore melted in unnatural heat and machined perfectly by human hands into a beautiful complete item. A tool that had taken years to develop in to one so very simple object. One of mans greatest inventions.
A gun. Hundreds of lives were maintained with this weapons production, children ate and had a home because of it, yet others suffered under its sights. No amount of polishing could remove the blood that stained it. No amount of idealism or propaganda could change its purpose. One carried a gun for a single reason.
The hand trembled slightly, a digit slipping into the trigger guard to stroke the very heart of the gun, lifting it higher from the otherwise bare table to rest the muzzle on sweating flesh under a fall of chestnut hair. Against the first of the guns targets that was willing to be aimed at.
Willing to have their life ended.
A practised thumb and forefinger pulled the bolt back, sliding a single brass bullet into the empty chamber with a soft click. A bead of sweat dripped down, running over closed eyes, joining salty tears running down the deep lines of a sleep deprived face, too young to bare the stresses and burdens placed on slim shoulders.
An index finger stroked the safety off, slipping it down to allow the trigger to move once more in the guard, the forefinger tightening, squeezing. Moving metal to metal, millimetre by painful millimetre.
All the time a faint prayer pierced the silence of the darkened living quarters. A chant that helped to stop the trembling of the small hands. Hands stained with too much blood.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters and restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me, your rod and your staff to comfort me." A pause and a small hitched breath with more tears spilling from reddened eyes.
The finger tightened, the icy barrel bruised tender flesh. "But I strayed and Death did claim me. I am Death. I cause Death. We are one." A racking sob and flinch of fear running through over tenses muscles. Nerves' sending sparks of pain to the misery-ridden mind. "Forgive me, please forgive me…please."
The trigger pulled all the way. A firing pin clipped the base of the bullet.
"Now that you've worked out that suicide is not a good option, do you want to talk instead?"
Duo spun toward the voice, glaring at the dark figure standing in the shadows of the door way, arms folded over his broad and muscled chest, clothed only in a pair of sweat pants.
Heero stepped easily into the room, flicking on the light switch and flooding the room with the powerful over heads. Having momentarily blinded the smaller teenager he plucked the gun out of lose fingers and set it in front of him on the table as he slid in to a seat.
Practised fingers of the perfect soldier ejected the ammo clip before taking the weapon to pieces and tucking the firing bolt in to his sweat pants pocket for safe keeping.
Duo watched the skilled hands without comment, hiccuping softly to himself as tears continued to fall uninterrupted.
"You want to start, or should I begin my speech now?" Heero asked again, leaning back in his chair to face his best friend, cobalt eyes stern. Duo's eyes didn't meet his gaze and instead the younger boy stared down at his hands, letting out a long weary sigh.
"Since when do ya actually wanna talk, Oh master of silence?" He muttered quietly, voice thick with suppressed emotion. He didn't pull away as strong fingers brushed across his bruised temple, caressing the skin tenderly before wiping away still falling tears with a callused thumb.
"Since when are you so serious, class clown?" Heero whispered back, standing up again from his chair before squatting beside Duo's and pulling the smaller form again his body in a tight hug. "When was the last time you slept Duo? Or ate for that matter. You're all bones."
"I can't remember. Heero...I can't take it anymore." Duo mumbled back, resting his head on the older boy's shoulder, relaxing slightly as fingers smoothed his messy hair, untangling the knots in his long braid. "The nightmares, the blood. I don't wanna hear 'em scream over and over again. I just want it to stop."
Another set of arms encircled his too skinny form from behind and a warm body pressed against his back, bringing the familiar scent of oils and sand.
"Life is important Duo. There are other ways of stopping the dreams without resorting to suicide." Quatre murmured, long fingers of a life long musician drawing slow circles on Duo's flat stomach, breath warming his neck as two different hands rested on his slim shoulders, squeezing the tense muscles in reassurance.
"We won't let you die now, anymore than we would during the war Duo. You are our family." Trowa growled, voice hard but with caring rather than anger.
Slowly Duo nodded his head against Heero's shoulder, his long fringe brushing across the scarred skin, electing a soft chuckle from Zero's pilot.
"I just want to…to forget." He nearly pleaded, timid violet eyes, partially shadowed by his hair, glancing up at the only brothers, only family he had. The only family that had not abandoned him when he most needed them.
"Then Maxwell, we will find a way for you to forget. A way for us all to forget." Wufei offered gently, determined look crossing his stubborn but weary features as he received three nods of agreement and a hopeful look on a face that had lost all such hope weeks ago. Before even the war had ended.
"Late again Maxwell."
The violet-eyed boy rolled his eyes as he dropped in to the seat between Wufei and the fifth unused chair of their row, electing a chuckle from Quatre and a faint smile from Trowa.
"Bite me 'Fei." He snapped, wide smile taking out any of the harm in his words as he pulled his notebook and a biro from his backpack, tossing them on to his desk as he scanned the crowded science class. "Hey, where's rat dude?"
"MR LEWIS has gone to reception to pick up a new pupil to our study group whose joining all of our lessons." Trowa answered, stressing the name with a disapproving frown at the youngest member of their class, who answered with his usual response. A stuck out tongue and shrug.
"And to pick up our tests. You did revise, didn't you Maxwell?" Wufei asked, wearing a smirk that would send most adults running in fear, hazel eyes sparkling at the panicked expression that flashed up on Duo's features.
"Aww, shit. Knew I forgot somethin'." Duo moaned. Quatre rolled his eyes, mirroring Duo's earlier look as he leaned across the Chinese boy to deliver a sharp cuff to the side of the American's head.
"No swearing." The blond ordered, then slapped the side of Wufei's head as the other laughed at Duo's expense. "And no lying. There is no test, just a new kid that I said we'd keep an eye on for Mr Lewis." Trowa nodded in agreement, sending a scowl at the two grinning teenagers who'd both given Quatre jaunty salutes.
"Teachers pet." Duo coughed softly, getting another cuff for his comment but a grin too in agreement from Trowa, whose expression lightened considerably. He leaned from the window that he sat beside to talk more privately to the three that he sat with.
"Your Uncle still okay with us coming over?" He asked, keeping an eye on the prefect that was trying to regain control of the class that he'd been instructed to get working on making notes from the textbooks. The poor eighteen-year-old didn't have a chance and was instead getting pelted by paper balls, some of which had been made from the textbooks themselves.
"Oh, come on Tro, Howie's cool with everything. So long as you guys don't mind helpin' me haul some of the junk about for an hour your always welcome. 'Sides he's meetin' up with a mate later so I get the place to myself." The braided boy answered with a casual grin, shaking his head at the envious looks he got.
"That is so unfair. I've got to issue a specific request in triplicate with full character reports on each guest before Rashid even lets them in the house, let alone sleep over." Quatre complained, slumping back in his chair in defeat, as though the life his uncle had set him was just too strained.
"Cathy thinks your all a bad influence, especially Duo. That's why she never lets you guys stay long. She thinks I should be hanging with a better crowd, like the nerd group or something." Trowa muttered, rolling his emerald eyes at the very suggestion before glancing at the offending group, busy typing away at their lap tops or actually doing their work. They too were the targets for many of the paper balls being thrown and all seemed to like tweed way too much for their own good.
"Ah, the over protective and the hen pecked. It bites…but Que's sorta a nerd." Duo offered, dodging the cuff that was sent his way, thumbing his nose proudly. "I mean he's got the vest thing goin', all ya need is specks and they'll let you in pal. You wait Tro, next thing we know Que's gonna be quoting Startrek and speaking Klingon."
"Will not." Quatre snapped, fingering his purple vest protectively at the insult while trying not to respond to the sniggers from both Trowa and Duo. Only Wufei was silent, feeling that he should defend Quatre's honour.
"At least he'd then be able to speak another language correctly. You, Maxwell can't even speak your own without error." Wufei complained, elbowing the smaller boy in his prominent ribs, still too thin for his own good. The American frowned, drawing himself up importantly.
"I can speak this language fine Wu-man." He growled back, eyes dancing with mischief as he tugged on the proud boys pony tail before switching to the further away seat under the disapproving glare shot his way.
"Betcha anything that you can speak Klingon, Duo." Trowa taunted, smirking happily as the frown was replaced with an indignant look. The three of them laughed as Duo stuck out his tongue.
"Hey, Tro. I ain't no Treky and neither is Howard. 'Sides we weren't talkin' 'bout that, you were talkin' bout the sleep over." He muttered, sinking lower in his chair as he folded his arms across his chest in a mock pout, sticking out his lower lip. Quatre chuckled at the expression, nudging Trowa to let Duo once again resort back to a safer subject.
"Oh, you guys think we should invite the new kid? If he's going to be in our group permanently then we should get to know him before camp, otherwise we'll end up in a cabin with someone we don't even know." Quatre suggested, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as his aqua eyes strayed to the door, watching out for the person that the teacher had gone to collect. Duo lifted an eyebrow at the Arabian, smile returning to his heart shaped face.
"You just wanna let him get used to seein' a guy in silk pjs and slippers." Duo giggled, laughing all the harder when Quatre went a bright crimson, Wufei and Trowa sniggering at his choice of bed clothes too. Quatre raised his nose in a jokingly superior gesture, looking 'down' at his braided friend in an attempted scowl but was having problems keeping the smile from his face.
"Not everyone wears boxers to bed, Duo. Or walks around bare foot. I'd of thought you'd know better, what with living in a junk yard." Quatre argued, sticking out his tongue and totally ruining his superior attitude but electing more laughter from his three best friends at his out of character behaviour.
"Be glad he wears boxers." Trowa muttered loudly in the blonde's ear before Wufei slapped a hand over the part time clowns mouth to silence him.
"Don't give him ideas." He hissed seriously, eyeing the dangerous grin sneaking its way across Duo's elfish features.
"Ahh, Fei. You encouraged no boxers last time on camp. Remember, when we mooned that couch from Sank Peace and Diplomats college?" Duo murmured, offering the bright red Chinese boy a wink as the others blushed but giggled at the memory. Trowa raised an elegant eyebrow, pretending to look intensely thoughtful, bringing silence to the group who all turned to him.
"Maybe Cathy's right. I think Duo IS a bad influence." He muttered, beaming brightly at the horrified look that crossed the trouble makers face.
"Ohh, I'm hurt Tro. But I don't matter 'cause I'm a good bad influence." He chirped, running his fingers through his hair in a confident gesture.
"Wow, that makes so much sense Duo." Quatre snorted, straightening as the classroom door swung open. Silence spread quickly over the fighting pupils as the teacher marched in, with a boy trailing behind. The sudden quiet making Duo's answer louder than intended.
"Yeah, great ain't I?" Twenty seven heads turned round to face their desperately flushing youngest class mate, some frowning while others smiled as he proudly waved to them all, confidently covering his mistake with further idiocy. After all, what else was expected of the class clown. A glare though paused his hand and made him wince as a yellow detention slip was written out by a very angry Mr Lewis.
"Again Mr Maxwell, it seems that you are causing a disturbance. Adding that to your last piece of homework it seems that I will be forced to keep you behind today in order to work on your grammar. Ain't is not a word, neither is wanna or gonna and I don't want any more descriptions of reactions being and I quote 'this real cool big bang and loads of fizzing and bubbles.' I expect better use of language from a top group pupil and will be discussing it with your English teacher." Mr Lewis snapped, gaining a few smiles from the nerd section but mostly complete silence and scowls from the majority of the class that actually rather liked the hyperactive boy.
He marched forward, between the desks and slammed the yellow slip down in front of the American, making the five foot nothing boy jump. His near black eyes meet Duo's angrily before the violet gaze dropped to his note book, knowing that his retort would just take him back along the weary route to the principles office and cause endless trouble for Howard.
Mr Lewis shot him a final dirty look before stomping back to the front of the class, to stand beside the brown haired new boy, who was dressed in loose blue jeans and a faded green T-shirt.
"Now that the dealing with the kindergarten children has been taken care of, allow me to introduce our newest member who I pray won't turn out to be as large an idiot as some other members of my class. This is Odin Lowe and I must unfortunately place you in group 1B at the back as you will share all classes with them for the next year. If God is merciful you might just survive a year of Maxwell with your sanity intact, though I seriously doubt it. Please take your seat, or Maxwell's as he seems to be occupying it. Feel free to kick him." Cobalt eyes meet the teachers small water black gaze, scanning the sharp unfriendly features and long nose with ill-concealed dislike.
"I don't think such methods are permitted in school, Sir. Nor do I think that a person's natural behaviour should be condoned by a teacher. I would be honoured to join any group that you disapprove of and suspect that I will get along well with Maxwell, for if you dislike him it must make him a decent human being. So very unlike your self that it disgusts you." That said, Odin calmly pulled his backpack on to his shoulder before moving toward his seat and taking the still warm stool that the braided boy had quickly evacuated.
The rest of the class watched him with obvious awe before all but the five nerds broke out in to cheers at Mr Lewis' expense. The teacher just scowled, face red as he glared at the slightly smirking teenager. He scribbled angrily on his yellow detention pad before stamping forward and throwing a slip into Odin's face.
"Very well Lowe. We shall see how much your new group like you as you've earned all of group 1B a detention. You'll keep Maxwell company. Ensure that he is NOT late or else he'll be in detention till the end of the year." Mr Lewis turned back to the still cheering class, veins bulging dangerously. "Unless you all wish to join them, you will take your notes IN SILENCE!" He yelled, marching back to his desk, never seeing the five raised middle fingers aimed at his back.
"That was soooooo cool." Duo yelled, dashing quickly down the corridor and away from the still glaring Mr Lewis, fist punching the air to match the loud statement.
He turned to the members of group 1B with an awed look on his features as he met the faint smile that tugged at Odin's tight lips. He spun around in the quickly emptying corridor, braid wiping around him as he all but danced toward their English classroom.
His yellow detention slip clashed hideously with his black loose shirt that moved like a cape around him as he turned, flashing glimpses of a blue mesh vest that did little to cover his well defined and tanned chest. Odin just glanced him up and down, noting with a growing smile the scuffed up combat boots laced up to the boys shins and the stained blue work jeans that looked as though they'd been used as an oil rag at some time in the past.
"Thank you, I think." He said softly, voice no longer the harsh snarl that he'd used on Mr Lewis and instead rather cheerful. He turned toward the others of his group, throwing them an apologetic look while he unconsciously evaluated each, noting the dramatic difference in clothing taste and origin between them. "I apologise though for getting you all a detention."
The blond of the group, wearing tan slacks and a white shirt complete with purple waist coat, looking very business like grinned at him, shaking the apology off.
"It's no worry really. Mr Lewis always gives us all detentions no matter what we do. I'm Quatre by the way." He extended a pale, finely structured hand to Odin that the more solid boy accepted.
"Odin." He replied, jumping as arms encircled his shoulders and he took the weight of the braided boy as he slung himself over a near strangers shoulder with a grin.
"Yeah, Que's right, rat face even gave Fei a detention for sneezin' once. I still say Tro should get Cathy to give him a taste of her act. That'd be real fun ta watch." Duo announced with a wink at the tall circus performer who rolled his eyes. Wufei pushed the American off of the new boy's shoulder.
"Please ignore him. We're convinced that they miss read his IQ rating when admitting him here. My name is Chang Wufei, no matter what Maxwell calls me." Wufei offered with a slight bow that Odin returned easily.
"An honour." Odin replied, before almost being knocked off his feet once more as Duo looped an arm round his shoulder, turning him to face the tallest member of the group who had yet to speak. Emerald eyes easily met cobalt with a faint hint of a smile trapped in their depth and no small amount of pity.
"Mr silent and lanky over there is Tro and you can just call me an idiot 'cause most people do." Duo announced, vaguely gesturing in Trowa's direction, his violet eyes shining along with his emotions as Odin slipped out of his grasp and glanced at the rest of his new classmates.
"Please don't tell me he's always like this." He nearly begged, getting a pout and three smiles in response. Wufei cuffed Duo around the head before gripping the smaller boys arm and pushing him away from the group to lead the way down the narrow corridor.
"No, thank Kami. You just caught him on a caffeine high. He does have a serious mode. It just doesn't activate unless something really interests him." The Chinese boy said with a weary but knowing smile. Quatre nodded his agreement.
"Yeah, wait till sport or metal shop and you'll see it." Odin winced noticeably, receiving a puzzled look from Trowa.
"I just had this really scary image of him with power tools." The new boy explain, shivering slightly as Trowa chuckled.
"That is something you don't need to worry about. Duo all but teaches metal work. He works after school and at the weekend with his uncle in their junkyard. Duo can fix or make anything." The tall clown muttered softly, careful not to let the younger boy hear the compliments in case it boosted his ego any further. Odin grinned, wiping imaginary sweat from his brow, before frowning slightly at the enlightened look that flashed suddenly across Quatre's face.
"That reminds me. All of us are headed off to Duo's after school for a sleep over. As a member of group 1B you're welcome to come. Especially as it'll help you to get to know us before camp." Quatre offered, smiling at the sudden hesitant look that came to Odin's eyes and the yelled encouragement from Duo that echoed in the empty corridor. Wufei silenced him with a solid tug on his braid and a scowl.
The last thing they needed was a double detention from a prefect for disrupting classes.
"Um, well I'd have to check with my brother but it should be okay. So long as Duo's parents don't mind." Odin said after a thoughtful pause, running his long fingers nervously through his hair. He didn't notice Wufei's hand tightened in to a comforting squeeze on Duo's shoulder as the smile faltered on the younger boy's face.
The suddenly sober groups representative; Quatre, nodded softly. He reached out, catching Duo's long braid to give it a reassuring tug. His aqua eyes meet Odin's with a slight warning look.
"Uncle, just uncle. And Howard never minds anything, so long as we give Duo a hand with the junk yard chores." Quatre turned to Wufei, questioning look on his face. "Will Sally mind giving us a lift to Odin's then to Duo's?"
"Doubt it. So long as Odin doesn't mind enduring the standard hundred behavioural questions." Wufei answered, throwing the boy in question a long suffering grin and a sigh. "Over protective guardians. If it wasn't for Howard not caring we'd never get to see each other outside of school."
"Yeah, I know how that feels. My brother is paranoid, I swear. But then he works in security so I guess it goes with the job. His wife's just as bad but at least she smiles when she goes through the list." Odin muttered, shaking his head in frustration only to have violet eyes snap round to meet his in confusion.
"List?" Duo asked.
"Yeah, you know the 'don't talk to strangers, look both ways before you cross the road' stuff." Duo raised an eyebrow at the idea before shrugging.
"Weird. All Howard ever says is that if I'm not back by one he'll eat my dinner for me. Well, that and the whole 'and don't forget what do if someone starts trouble kid' thing."
"What's that?" Odin asked, exchanging interested looks with the others as they slowly rounded the last corner, drawing out the 'giving new guy a tour' excuse for being late out as long as possible.
"Beat the crap out of 'em but don't get caught. Howard is seriously cool for an adult." Duo grinned, slipping into the open classroom door. He offered Odin a confident wink as he strode casually in to the room, beaming smile aimed at the scowling teacher who was obviously struggling not to laugh at the antics of his favourite pupil.
Odin sighed in relief as the black jeep pulled away.
Wufei's guardian was heading for home and leaving him to recover from the several hundred questions that he'd been asked about ever-single topic of conversation the woman could think off.
His brother had only just moved in to the Sank kingdom, relocating their small family of three to a large six bed roomed near mansion in the suburbs. As it turned out it was quite near Quatre's equally impressive house.
A rush of guilt hit him as he glanced around his surroundings. A small bungalow sat in front of a huge pile of smashed cars, damaged small planes, totalled motorcycles and mountains of scrap metal.
Nestled between the metallic hills that were arranged in the massive, half-filled ten-acre yard was a semi-hanger, large enough to easily fit ten cars with space around them to work. The huge sliding doors sat open and Odin's nose wrinkled instinctively at the strong scent of oil, petrol and welding fumes. Ancient rock music boomed out into the yard over the rasp of a laser cutter.
The entire place looked messy. Even for a junkyard, with boat engines littered among cars, scrap steel in piles with jeeps crowning them and the massive frame of a magnetic crane shadowing the lot.
Stunned, his eyes flashed toward the one presentable area, obviously for the yards main purpose of selling spares where different hub caps hung on the inner walls of the hanger and where selves were filled with repaired exhausts, still working gear boxes and seats.
Inside 'totalled' cars were repaired and refitted to be used for driving lessons and racing. A few restored classic motor bikes shined, their polish reflecting the over heads, sitting in a sheltered area of the massive work shop, in view yet out of harms way.
Stunned , he realised he was being left behind and was forced to jog to catch up with his new friends, getting a grin from Trowa.
"You think this is bad, wait till you see Duo's room." He muttered conspiratorially, voice easily hidden from the ears of all but Odin by the crunch of five pairs of feet on gravel
Falling in between Trowa and Wufei, he was suddenly assaulted by a bright smile and dancing violet eyes. His hand was seized and he was dragged though the gaping doors, toward the bikes, trying desperately to translate what the over excited Duo was saying.
"Come on Odin, ya gotta see this man, it is soooo cool. Howie says his gonna let me ride it too, soon as its done, its way better 'an any of these oldies bikes. I been working on it for, like, ages and it's gonna be the best bike of all." Odin nodded numbly, looking towards the others for help only to get headshakes and encouraging gestures from them while they wore indulgent looks.
Apparently all of them had been forced to indure meeting Duo's projects and thought it only right that he suffer too. A part of his mind registered that the rasp of the laser cutter had stopped and he noticed someone next to one of the customer's cars in for repairs straighten.
The figure removed at flash visor and strolled casually towards them. "All these bikes gonna be nothin' ta mine and it ain't cost nothin' ta build cause I scavenged all the parts but I gotta finish fixin' one of the smaller bikes first so Howard can teach me to ride an' all. But that's the easy part. We're even fixin' up a Fire bird cause we got a totalled one and…"
"Woaw kid, slow it down before your friend loses it." Odin turned the much older man who set his laser cutter and visor down on one of the workbenches and lowered his sunglasses to give Duo a wink.
The braided boy beamed and danced over to him, giving his Uncle a greeting hug before turning back to Odin. He opened his mouth to speak only to have a hand gently clamp over the too often working lips. The elder man offered a grin and his free hand to Odin. "I'm Howard. Duo's long suffering Uncle. Welcome to the Yard." Howard said, shaking Odin's hand in a strong grip and leaving the smaller hand covered in grease.
"Odin Lowe. I'm the newest member of 1B." Odin replied, getting an understanding nod from Howard, whose eyes scanned his lithe frame before glancing Quatre's neat school clothes over and snorting at Wufei's colourful dragon T-shirt.
"I hope you guys weren't planning on wearing that stuff." He commented, still holding on to his nephew who had stopped fighting and was finally standing still. Howard had removed the hand from his mouth and instead hugged the five-foot boy against his chest.
"Nah, we've got our work clothes to change into Howard, no worries." Quatre answered lazily, attitude changing as he felt more at home in the casual workshop.
"Well Que, you guys know where the house is. It's open. Ditch your stuff while we give new boy a tour." The other three nodded obediently, slipping out of the hanger and headed for the bungalow, acting as though they came here and worked every night after school which Odin couldn't help but think was rather accurate.
He watched them go before turning back to Duo, seeing the younger boy still caught up in a hug but his smile was more controlled and his breathing was back to normal, obviously having been calmed down. "Okay, lets show you D's cycle before anything else, as it's his pride and joy." Howard released his nephew, who lead Odin at a much slower rate over to the main working area, where the walls were hung with tools and two lathes sat ready to shape new parts. Where something sat under a tarpaulin which Duo quickly pulled aside.
"Wow. That's a V-max, nitrogen charged engine!" Odin yelled, eyes wide as he scanned the frame of what would one day be a massive motorcycle more than capable of going past the two hundred-mile mark.
Howard chuckled at the shout, leaving the two rapidly talking boys alone as they ran through specifications, knowing that Duo had found yet another able mechanic. The two boys missed the sad smile that he shot them. He scribbled down a list of chores on to the clipboard, adding thirty dollars for their dinner. He then strolled out to get ready for his meal with a friend.
As he moved to the bungalows door he glanced toward the truly scrap metal that could not even be recycled, the iron that was worth nothing that he'd long ago let Duo have for his 'art'. What the boy could do with an arc welder still amazed him.
But the creations had changed over time. Rust coloured horses, mixed shapes twisted within each other and even a small roaring dragon had been replaced with something that made the hair on his back stand on end. A lone figure, shapeless but strong, looming but dispassionate, clad in a long black iron cloak with a weapon in its hand. With the long shaft clutched in fingered hands and a long, arched and sharpen blade.
There in his yard, in a place of peace and forgetting was the one thing the Howard had decided six months ago that he wanted to never see again.
The God of Death, Shinigama himself, stood guard outside Duo's window.
"You do that every day?" Odin asked, amazed as he scrubbed at his grease blackened hands in the massive washing basin on the bungalows patio, protected from the weather by the over hanging roof.
His muscles were protesting after three hours of heaving scrap steel in to piles. Automated machines would then throw it in to the furnaces hidden under the yard, the only evidence of which was the tall smokestack that towered at the furthest end of the scrap yard from the house. There it was melted down and formed in to sheet or metal rods, which then had to be heaved to the flat bed of a massive truck near by.
Though this process had been the most cumbersome it was made easier by a small outer frame power loader suit that Duo had used to move the stuff, leaving the others the unpleasant job of cutting the long rods into manageable sections. That duty, the first of many had taken only perhaps half an hour, leaving the rest of the time to the other purpose of the yard, scavenging and fixing up of still useful items.
Odin had lost count of the number of seats that he'd stripped out of cars that Quatre, operating the massive crane like a pro, had remove from their pile and dumped outside the hanger.
Exterior floodlights had kept the work going past dusk, while Duo decided which cars might be recoverable and which weren't. The latter of which were to be completely stripped down of anything useable and then the rest sorted in to piles of what could be recycled.
The two cars they'd devoted the time to were now nothing more than heaps. Useful equipment, not destroyed by whatever had first lead the car to be there in the first place, and key components that could be sold on or reused was sorted into the shelves in the hanger, while the laser cutters had been taken to the rest.
Odin's hands still trembled with the hum that had run through the grip of the cutter that he'd used for over an hour, hacking through plastic, rubber and metal alike. He then handed that part to either Wufei or Quatre who scanned it, separated the types and placed it in the right pile. Every week, he'd been informed, a truck from another yard that specialised in recycling those materials would swing by to remove the piles, leaving a heap of steel in exchange. It all seemed very efficient and tiring.
"Uh huh, six till eight, then homework, dinner and bed. Weekends I work all day unless I ask Howard before hand, then he calls in one of his mates ta help. That's what's happenin' this week 'cause we gotta go ta camp." Duo answered, still smiling though he had oil smeared across his face from where he's scratched his nose with filthy hands.
His braid was tucked down the back of his stained work shirt and he was still wearing the same jeans, obviously having worn the wrong pair to school that day. Quatre's face too was pale against the stark contrast of the grease across his brow that he was scrubbing at in an attempt to remove it. He sighed in defeat and turned to smile pleadingly at Duo.
"Mind if I grab a shower Duo?" He asked, aqua eyes doing their best impression of a puppy. Duo grinned.
"Nah, sure ya can Que. Any of you guys want one?" The chestnut haired boy asked, violet eyes glancing around him at his friends. Wufei to looked around at the three ruffled features, momentarily ignoring the perfectly happy grim coated yard inhabitant, thoughtful expression flashing to his face.
"I think," He said slowly. "We'd all better have one. Especially you Duo, I know you came right off the yard for school. I had to put up with the smell all day." Duo blushed red, lowering his head slightly to stare down at his scuffed and well-worn boots.
"Yeah, um sorry 'bout that. Some idiot ditched a steel pile right at the gate so I had ta move it all ta let Howard get the jeep outa here. I only got a sec ta change shirts." He admitted softly, finishing in scrapping his hands clean and leading them all in to the house.
Odin glanced around as he slipped off his shoes, leaving them at the door on a newspaper already blackened with car fluids beside the others shoes. The kitchen was quite open, the house larger on the inside that he had previously thought. It was clean but not spotlessly so, a few glasses unwashed in the sink and stuff littered the worktops. Mail was scattered between car magazines and comics, obscuring the work surfaces.
The place was well kept but defiantly lacked a women's touch. The calendar on the wall was on the wrong month and one of the partially opened cupboards was stacked with random items. Five duffel bags sat on the top of the dining table of which Odin selected his own.
He followed Duo into the living room which already had a few worn mattresses spread across the floor along with a pile of warm looking blankets, all facing the Tv on which was stacked a pile of rental tapes. The room was L shaped, flowing right into the kitchen with no wall between and a corridor leading away to the left of the front door. This corridor lead to three doors, two opposite each other, one that obviously lead to the added bedroom that stuck out of the front of the house as an extension while the other was aimed at the yard. The side door Quatre slid through, revealed a clean and rather large bathroom before he closed the door, going for his shower.
Duo mean while turned to Odin with a grin and pushed the door marked with no entry signs including the hazardous materials plaque that he'd probably removed from an already processed truck.
Trowa had not been totally joking about his comment on Duo's room, although it was in some form of order, unlike the yard. It was just a lot different from Odin's own room.
Though that was more likely because there would be no way that his brother and Noin would ever allow him to have a stolen stop sign hanging on his wall. They would also never let him have a stereo system made from a complete car radio kit (C.d. player, radio and tape) hooked up to four massive speakers. Nor would they have allowed him to sleep in a hammock or have a desk made from a truck tailgate. In fact if he'd ever asked for a traffic cone lamp he was fairly certain that Zechs' would have him committed.
In this house hold though, making things cheaply from whatever struck your fancy seemed normal. And from what Odin had already seen of Duo's mechanical and engineering skill he could very literally make anything from a pile of junk.
"Welcome to my humble abode." Duo said, usual harsh accent disappearing under his 'British' impression that didn't fail to bring a smile to Odin's face. The boy grinned widely, dropping onto an old car seat that had had legs welded to its base that was set up in front of a games system and small Tv screen and gesturing for the others to do the same.
Trowa eased himself down on a similar chair, its leather upholstery scuffed but still intact. Wufei collapsed onto the only normal chair in the room, despite the fact that it was thread bare and the stuffing was showing, leaving only a stool that's had once been a motorcycle seat that Odin carefully took. "So, whatcha think?"
"Very…different." Odin said softly, eyeing the room's posters showing hard rock bands and characters from multiple cartoon shows. The carpet beneath his feet was thick and lush and the pillows scattered under the hammock had not missed his notice. Obviously the hammock had some disadvantages. "But cool." His cobalt eyes glanced around the room again, not failing to notice the smile on Duo's face turn up a notch at the approval. "I was sort of expecting you to have half an engine scattered on your desk or something."
"Uh-uh. One of the rules Howie sets. No workin' in the house 'cept school stuff." Duo explained, pulling his braid free of his shirt and playing with the end in what seemed to be a long lasting nervous habit. The other two nodded vacantly, worn out and obviously more interested at staring at the bathroom door. From the looks of their positions it was going to be a race that determined who would get the next shower. Odin's eyes fell on the picture that rested on the desk, the space surrounding it free of any junk or half-done homework.
"How many rules has Howard got?" He asked, moving on and turning back to Duo, having already noticed that the reason that he was in his Uncles care was a sensitive topic.
"Um, 'bout five. No work in house, shoes off at door, ya mess is your own so ya have ta tidy it, refill the coffee pot if ya drink all of it and no more than four cups a day." Duo answered, smiling proudly as he ticked off his fingers. Odin had a feeling that his brother would have fainted having heard the rules of this male only household.
Their massive house had to be immaculate at all times and any breaking of one of the thousands of rules that he'd been forced to memorise would lead to a rant on family pride and the importance of order.
"What lead to the last one?" He asked, smiling as Trowa beat Wufei to the bathroom door, all but knocking Quatre off of his feet as he charged past, leaving the angry Chinese teenager swearing at the closed door. Quatre sniggered at the red faced Wufei before ducking away and dropping in to Trowa's chair, still towelling off his hair.
"I can answer that. Duo got suspended from school after he started a food fight in the cafeteria and attacked Mr Lewis with silly string. The last straw was when he burst in to song in assembly over the principal and sung 'schools out for summer' at full volume. He'd had seven cups of coffee and ended up having to be tranquillised." Quatre interrupted, leaning over to ruffle Duo's hair, winking at the blushing boy before jumping back to his feet. "Why we sitting around in here when there are videos to watch and pizza to order?" He asked, racing the suddenly cheerful Duo back to the living room, Odin trailing in their wake.
Meaningless words screamed from vocal cords torn from the demands made of them
Cries of agony that echoed in the blackness.
Reaching hands brushing over exposed flesh, begging for mercy.
Begging for death.
An arched blade, ebony with its edge stained crimson falling to answer.
To grant the wordless demands for an end to the pain.
Innocents consumed in fire.
The scent of burning human flesh and shriek's of a feeling beyond pain.
Faceless men charging forward into a line of fire, sacrificing their lives for a pointless dream. For a single man that could inspire so much trust that men would willingly die for him.
It was the same dream. The same dreams that had haunted his nights for as long as he could remember.
Bodies, their eyes accusing and angry staggered forward, blood dripping from various wounds, pooling on the floor, until the crimson life edged its was up his shins, up his naked form, covering him from head to toe in vile, dark blood. It dripped from his hands, from his hair, washing over him as the puddle grew and he began to be over come by it. The thick liquid secured his limbs, restraining him even as it trickled down his throat, its foul metallic taste making him choke but as he gapped to spit the blood up more rushed into him, pouring down his open wind pipe.
Yet he couldn't wake.
It was always here when he'd scream, when his voice would return as he fell from his bed. When the yell would awaken Howard and bring him to comfort the fears.
To remind him of reality.
The floor beneath him shook, the blood rippling as it drained slowly away, back to the fading corpses, leaving him coughing on his hands and knees, throwing up the vile liquid that had flooded his stomach and lungs.
Something big was getting closer, even as the screaming returned, louder than before, accusing and cold. Wordless shouts of hate all aimed at his frail, under weight form.
Shadows loomed, raising weapons, lurking together as they approached. A wall of darkness, getting closer, reaching out to destroy him. To destroy everything.
Screams grew up from behind him, and he spun to face other formless outlines against the scene of the Earth from space. Calls of panic and pleas for help echoed in the darkness as the shadows attacked the light washed forms, tearing in to them, cutting them down until the shining planet was nothing but fire and ash.
Silence as hands reached for his own, still stained in crimson. Hands young and old, smooth and scarred. Innocent unstained hands. Needing him. Pleading him.
A soft familiar hum that vibrated through his very bones, excluding power and safety. Slowly he turned, body coated red, long hair dripping as it slapped wetly against his thighs.
He looked up.
Green eyes, glowing with strength beyond any mortal creature.
A long arched blade, dripping black fluid, the blood of the shadows.
A shield marked with a four pointed shining star.
Black tapered wings, bat like, that pulsed against the surrounding gloom, their darkness out doing even that of the void of space.
'It is time brother'
The voice cut into his mind like ice, forcing him to close his eyes against the pain building in his head.
'No…look. Our family is complete.'
He blinked violet eyes open, screaming as he stumbled back, starring up at the white forms before him, towering over him, their armour splattered with shadow blood. Between each of the massive creatures feet stood human forms. Forms coated in crimson blood. Forms he knew. People he called his friends. He forced his eyes closed, scared to look too long just in case his mind destroyed them as well.
'It is time brother. Time to remember. They are coming. Without you there is no hope. I am nothing without you brother.'
A massive black hand extended toward him, offering something. Something that he didn't want.
'All who have suffered, all who have died made you. They protected you and made you to defend them. You cannot forget that.'
Forget. Yes. That's what he had to do. That's what the figure offered. It was giving him back memories he did not want. Things that would destroy him. Destroy the peace he had.
'You can not forget Duo. It's clear as day. The blood that stains your hands will never go away. You have killed to give people peace. You have sinned to stop the suffering. You are needed again. The darkness is coming back.'
No. The blood.
Violet eyes scanned tanned flesh stained crimson, hands scrubbing hopelessly together to try to remove the gore. To remove the memory.
'Duo. This is a lie. It is all a lie. And Duo Maxwell may run and he may hide but he never tells a lie! Remember Solo!'
Duo buckled to his knees, the pain pounding through his skull, seeing dots dance in front of his eyes and hearing a voice that he never wanted to hear again. A voice that he had failed to forget.
"Hey kiddo, don't ya dare forget me 'kay. Ya gotta remember us. Ya gotta remember cause I don' want all this crap ta be for nothin' You're strong kiddo, a hella lot stronger 'an me. So ya gotta do what I couldn't. Ya gotta make things better. Ya gotta try."
"Solo, don't ya die Solo. Ya can't leave me. I ain't strong. I ain't! I need ya."
"Hush. Trust me, I know ya kid, raised ya. I can see it in ya eyes. I'll be keepin' an eye on ya pal, but ya've got what I ain't. I can see it. Ya gonna do great things kid…great things…and…I'll be…watchin'."
"Duo?! Duo it's okay. It was just a dream."
Quatre's arms crushed his smaller body against the blondes muscled chest, holding the sobbing boy close, his delicate fingers stroking through Duo's still damp hair as the dry hitching breaths racked his form. Odin watched, half dazed from sleep as the Arabian calmed his friend, whispering soft reassurances in the braided boy's ear. He glanced down at his watch, rubbing sleep out of his eyes with his other hand as the digital numbers came in to focus. Five in the morning. He held back the groan, glancing back at the hugging boys.
Duo's yell of 'Solo!' had nearly given him a heart attack, the organ still trying to hammer its way past his ribs. It seemed though that the other three were calmer, Wufei already free of his sleeping bag and wandering across the room in to the kitchen.
He returned with a glass of water, which he offered down to Quatre, falling on to the long sofa besides Trowa on the other boy's blanket. Trowa yawned, scrubbing at his face with one hand before blinking in Odin's' direction and nudging Wufei, his emerald eyes giving the other a silent but meaningful look. Wufei growled something under his breath before climbing back to his feet with help from the more awake taller boy.
Odin watched both of them as they stroked Duo's back as they passed, offering the very serious Quatre a smile before gesturing to him to follow them into Duo's bedroom.
Odin obeyed silently, mildly worried about what he'd managed to get himself involved in as he walked past the trembling boy and moved after the others, dropping in to one of the former car seats set up in Duo's room, while Wufei quietly shut the door. Trowa turned to him calmly.
"There's something that you need to know before camp." The circus performer whispered, sitting on the stool opposite him, all of his joking manner gone. Wufei too, despite his weariness looked strict, his black eyes hard.
"Duo has nightmares." The Chinese boy growled and Odin had to hold back the rising 'you don't say' that threatened to disrupt the obvious trust they were placing on him as they told him something that was quite painful for them.
Instead he just nodded, amazed when Trowa handed him the well loved picture he'd noticed earlier. His cobalt eyes scanned the four smiling people. Two adults, an older man, his hair already white and looking to be in his late forties had his hand resting on the shoulder of a wild looking teenage boy whose black eyes stared rebelliously right at the camera, a casual smirk on his lips.
The mans other arm was wrapped tenderly around the shoulders of a younger woman who looked to be his wife even though he was a good ten years her senior. She wore a loving smile, soft eyes aimed not at the camera but at the boy sitting in her lap, her arms draped over him and obviously holding him still.
The youngest participant of the picture wasn't looking at the camera at all and instead his glowing violet eyes were staring at something more interesting out of the picture, his small body making him six or maybe seven. His hair was long, tied in a braid that hung over his shoulder, perhaps a foot long and was dressed in neat black trousers with a black catholic tunic over the top, much like the outfits the other three wore.
"Duo's family. He doesn't remember them." Trowa explained, swallowing hard but his eyes meeting cobalt with a pained expression. "They died in a car crash only a year ago. Duo was the only survivor and he was in a coma for the better part of three months. Serious damage to his episodic memory."
"Duo can't remember specific events from any of his life before the accident, but he can remember things that he learnt. The nightmares are of the crash." Wufei continued, voice softening as Odin nodded sadly, having lost his own parents when he was very young. He nodded his understanding at the same time as a knock sounded on the thin door and Quatre stepped in alone.
"He's gone outside to work on something. I think we should grab a bit more sleep while we can…"
"Man, Tro, ya too tall for this." Duo complained, having his shot at the basket plucked from the air by Trowa and the ball passed down to Odin who easily slam dunked it, landing lightly next to the scowling Wufei who was meant to have been defending the basket.
Trowa shot Duo an indulgent smile mainly because Duo was easily the shortest of the entire P.e class, even though the height that he could jump more than made up for it. Odin cuffed his head as he charged past the boy to tackle the attacking Chinese boy who bounced the ball up the side line before tossing it casually over Odin's head to Duo's waiting hands.
The chestnut haired boy grinned widely, dodging Trowa easily and heading for the hop even as Odin doubled back, dashing across the slick wooden floor to intercept. Intending in tackling from the side he tried to stop, only to have the soles of his shoes lose traction, his body sliding out of his control and smacking in to the side of Duo's much leaner form, sending them both crashing to the floor, ball forgotten.
Odin scrabbled back up, blushing in embarrassment and stammering an apology before realising that Duo was not getting up. Crouching beside the fallen boy he leaned over slightly glazed eyes, looking for a sign of injury.
"You okay Duo?"
'You okay Duo?'
Gun fire. Shouts of alarm and anger. Cobalt eyes staring into his and pain. A shearing pain beyond anything that he could remember feeling. A burning in his stomach and the feel of warm wetness dripping across his flesh. Hands touched his face, stroking hair out of his eyes, a form that he trusted more than anyone else alive leaning over him, warm breath brushing against his wet cheeks.
'Duo?' The voice was hard and growled, the voice of a hardened soldier and another listener would think its speaker unfeeling save for the concern and worry that shimmered in those strong eyes.
'Heero, I…I think I got shot.' A whispered voice, his own, trembling in quiet fear as the scared child showed through the well built and long lasting warriors mask. The surface on which he lay shook, an engine started and deafening shots hammering all around as Heero held him securely on the bench seat, under his larger form. A tight corner, the jeep that they were in swaying violently to dodge bullets as they speed towards safety. Towards white legs and the thundering of a gun bigger than anything imaginable.
A soft nod and the hands moved lower, questing across his body until the long fingers touched warm blood and more pain radiated from the spot as his shirt was tugged away and a palm was pressed over the wound, struggling to stop the bleeding.
He looked down at his own crimson stained stomach, hand shaking with the on coming shock, reaching for the edge of his shirt now damp and with a clean hole punched right through it.
"Ah, K'so. I liked this shirt." He moaned, smiling despite the pain up into those worried eyes.
(End flash back)
"Duo? You okay?" Odin asked again, worry creeping in to his voice only to be replaced with a smile of relief when violet eyes focused on him. Duo looked up in to four concerned faces and sat up slowly, rubbing at his side that had taken the landing, hand lingering on the spot from which phantom pain radiated.
"Yeah. Gomen, sorta just zoned out there huh? Give me a hand up Heero." He muttered, offering his hand toward the very puzzled Odin who gingerly accepted it, pulling Duo to his feet, all the while frowning at him.
"My names Odin." He said softly, getting a blink of confusion from Duo and noticing that the looked of worry written on the faces of the other three had increased. Duo covered the pause with a wide grin.
"Nah der pal. Ya my hero, get it?" Odin considered the question carefully, staring intently down at the smaller boy. Beside him Quatre chuckled, trying to break the tension and slapped a hand on Duo shoulder.
"That has got to be the worst nick name yet Duo." He complained, lightly steering Duo away, towards the changing room for the still dazed American to sit down. Odin watched them go for a second before calling something out.
"Honto?" (really?) He asked. Duo turned to him, arm wrapped around the blondes shoulders for balance and grinned widely.
"Hai. Arigatou, Odin-kun. Jamatta jane." (Yes. Thanks, Odin. Bye.) Duo replied with a smile, before disappearing through the changing room doors. Odin frowned at the closing door, before turning to face the two confused members of group 1B who were still on the basketball court.
"Did you two know that Duo could speak Japanese?" He asked, accusing tone barely hidden in his voice that they'd keep such a detail from him. The stunned look that Wufei wore, along with the confused expression on Trowa's reassured him though of the fact that they had had no clue.
"We always thought he couldn't speak anything except English. He doesn't even take language lessons." Trowa whispered, running a hand through his long fringe nervously. Wufei bounced the basketball absently, staring at the door thoughtfully.
"There is something about this that concerns me." He muttered, getting two agreeing nods from his friends before passing the ball to Odin, continuing their game at a much slower rate.
Quatre gently guided Duo in to the changing rooms, sitting him down on the bench opposite his own personal locker, on of the many benefits of being on the schools basketball team. Duo had even convinced the couch to let Heero become their fifth man even though he'd only been a pupil for a day. The blond opened his friend's locker and pulled out Duo's normal clothes, a folded towel and a wash kit.
"Is that a hint?" Duo asked softly, smiling up at Quatre who paused before sniffing dramatically in Duo's direction, nose wrinkling at the not totally imagined smell.
"Yes. Very much so." Quatre muttered, ruffling the smaller boys hair before chucking both the towel and wash bag at him, pulling him off the seat and pushing him towards the shower room before grabbing his own gear and following.
The young Arabian still felt uncomfortable with the idea of showering in a group. But as their sports group only ever involved group 1B taking part with the geek squad watching on the stands he'd long since grown out of such embarrassment, although Odin's presence once again put him on edge.
They both striped, throwing their sports clothes onto near by benches and left their towels on the rails at the shower room's entrance before slipping past each other, heading to opposite sides of the room to make use of the shower heads.
"Duo, you sure your okay? Odin must out weigh you by quite a bit and your gripping your side like it hurts." Quatre asked; glancing round at Duo, careful to keep his eyes discrete, not that Duo had ever been shy.
The braided boy glanced down at the offending arm, only just realising that he was in fact cupping his ribs, still feeling the phantom pain. He removed it, stroking the deep scar, painfully white against his tanned skin, almost perfectly round. He'd had it for as long as he could remember, which wasn't long. But it was unlike any scar he'd ever seen, too deep and too perfect to be a normal childhood injury.
"I'm fine man, just bruised." He threw a grin over to Quatre, seeing the other boy's back to him and a scar he'd never really taken notice of before. Though small the vertical straight line was deep and as the Arabian shifted, washing out his sweaty hair, Duo could see an identical mark on the flat stomach.
Cheering and the sound of hissing hydraulics assaulted his ears as he scanned the unfamiliar hanger bay of the resource satellite MO 3, looking for the missing figures of three of his group, worry and pain echoing through his body, hands shaking from exhaustion and uncompleted joy. It was over. The war was over. But it meant nothing to him if his family had not survived.
A slumping figure held between a huge hulking Rashid and the slimmer Trowa was lowered to a rest on a stretcher near Sandrock's feet. The figure that rested on it was pale faced and tensed with pain as Sally pulled away the padding that Trowa had strapped to the wound to stop the blood loss.
His entire body shook with every running step, muscles taking him across the hanger bay despite their tiredness. Distantly he heard Heero's steps at his side, both running at full tilt to their brother's side. The scent of blood and grease hung heavily in the air as he skidded to a stop, mind asking a thousand questions while his mouth sat open and for once unused, terror locking it open.
It was happening again, Death had caught up.
"Your little friend might want to take some fencing lessons." Some one taunted amongst the shouted orders and joyous shouts of victory. He heard it through the ringing, through the pain and spun towards it.
His hand touch nothing as he reached for his gun, unable to wear both the holster and the restraints in his Gundam, he'd been forced to leave the weapon in his room in Peace Million.
Instead he reached for a weapon he always carried, be it to school or on the battlefield. His fingers stroked the worn metal handle, gripping the worn groves on the stained black steel as he pulled the knife from its sheath in his boot, smiling as it hissed free of the smooth leather.
He straightened, eyes locked on his target, on the blushed skin between those forked eyebrows. He threw up the knife, catching its razor sharp but thinning blade, pulling back his arm, ready for the balance, ready for the feeling of perfection that he knew would come just before the throw, eyes glimmering as Dorothy gasped, stumbling back to try to reach safety.
There was no hiding from Death.
Perfection ran through his body, his muscles screaming that they were ready, his blood pounding its hate for the one who had injured one of his family.
His arm snapped forward as a form smashed into him, heavier body knocking his aim off.
Distantly he heard the thud of the knife imbedding itself in the metal crate barely an inch to the left of Dorothy's head, heard the swearing of the shocked guards dragging their prisoner away for her own safety.
"LET ME GO!!!" He screamed, struggling even as strong arms pined his own to his sides, longer legs wrapping around his as he fought for his freedom. "I'm gonna kill her. Fucking hurt one of us, thinks she'd get away with it. No fucking way! Get the hell off me Yuy!"
The arms didn't relax even as long fingers capable of crushing steel stroked his stomach, trying to calm him as well as pin him to the cold deck. He heard Wufei's voice yelling for someone to help, dimly aware of another set of arms wrapping around his shoulders, stopping his frantic squirming.
"Shhhh, Duo, Shhh. It's over. Try to calm down." Heero voice echoed in his ears at his mind began to stall, blackness eating away at his vision as shock set in, gasping breaths some how not providing enough oxygen.
"Sally, it's a panic attack. He's hyperventilating!" Wufei's voice again, growing fainter as he struggled to pull air in to his lungs. Something sharp dug in to his backside and a numbing warmth began to spread through his body as a soft hand stroked over his forehead. He blinked sleepily, focusing dimly on the aqua eyes staring down at his and the comforting smile aim his way.
"Everything's going to be fine Duo. Its over...no more killing…no more blood…its okay…"
(End flash back)
"Its okay Duo. Come on, just stand up." Quatre whispered, stroking Duo's hair softly, smiling nervously as Duo's eyes blinked, glazed look slowly disappearing as he focused on Quatre's face. He rolled over away from the other boy, kneeling and fighting off the dizziness that suddenly attacked, throwing the blond a reassuring grin as he staggered to his feet, all to aware of the fact that he was still very naked and wet.
"Wow. Guess I zoned out again huh?" Duo asked softly, wincing mentally at the frown that washed over Quatre's worried face, knowing that the other boy would never leave it as just that.
"Twice in five minutes Duo? And you fell rather hard. I think you should see the nurse." Quatre said sternly, marching over to the rail and wrapping his own towel around his waist before throwing Duo his own Disney character towel. The braided boy caught it, snuggling his small frame in to it as he headed for his locker, glancing at the door encase the others were coming in, not wanting them to worry.
"Ah, come on Q. I'm fine. It ain't like its anything serious. Besides, the nurse'll send me home and Howie will get all worried." Duo said, slipping in to his underwear before turning to face the partially clothed Arabian. Quatre scowled at him, aqua eyes half-angry, half scared.
"Nothing serious? Duo, you just had a fit in the shower. I had to hold you still to stop you getting hurt. It is very serious. You could be Epileptic." He growled, Duo fidgeting under his gaze as violet eyes locked to the door where Odin stood frozen with Trowa and Wufei standing beside him, all three wearing worried frowns.
"What happened?" Trowa demanded, pushing his way into the room, and over to the smallest member of their group, emerald eyes scanning the bruise already spreading out on the tanned forehead.
"Look, all I did was slip or somethin'. Que's just bein' paranoid. I'm fine." Duo muttered, dodging Trowa's concerned fingers and roughly pulling on his shirt, wet braid quickly leaving a damp patch in it wake. Trowa glanced at Quatre, eyebrow raised in surprise at the glare aimed at Duo for the comment.
"What happened?" He asked again, this time asking the blond and getting a relieved smile in answer at the fact that Trowa trusted his opinion more. Duo just stared at the door of his locker, not really listening.
"He just had a full blown fit in the shower. He fell then started thrashing about violently." Quatre sat heavily on the bench, grateful for the hand that Wufei placed on his shoulder for support, sad eyes watching Duo's angry features.
"Okay, lets get Duo to the nurse." The Chinese boy decided, handing the smaller boy his shredded jeans to put on only to receive a glare in response.
"No. I said 'm okay. I ain't gonna be prodded an' stabbed just ta prove I'm right." Duo snapped, folding his arms stubbornly and nearly losing his balance when Odin pulled him to his feet, holding him off of the ground while Wufei slipped the trousers up to his waist, too stunned to struggle. His fly zipped and button secured Odin placed him back down, frowning down at him.
"You're going whether you like it or not. Only choice you have is whether you walk there or get carried. Choose." He ordered, getting a humph and pout in response before Duo stamped in to his boots, not bothering with the laces and stuffed his P.e kit in to his locker before shouldering his back pack.
"Fine. Whatever man." He muttered, stamping towards the door out, ignoring the four that quickly followed, Quatre going bare footed.
"Baka." Odin murmured loudly, rolling his eyes at Wufei who smiled. The expression dropped as fast as Duo did, smashing hard down on to the tiled floor as though his legs had just given up on supporting him. The four of them still standing gasped and charged to his side, watching with panicked eyes as tremors ran through the small frame that curled in on itself, arms wrapped protectively around the chestnut headed hair. Trowa took command instantly, one of his duties as medic at the circus coming in handy.
"Quatre, time the fit. Wufei get the nurse. Odin, try to find a blanket or something to keep him warm." He ordered, pulling Duo carefully onto his lap, fingers searching for any injuries, pressing his palm against the gash on the side of Duo's head to stop the bleeding.
The three didn't even hesitate, Wufei sprinting from the room while Quatre set his digital watch before sitting beside Trowa, gently stroking Duo's stomach, wincing at the shocks that tensed the lithe muscles so tightly that he could feel them protest.
Heero scrabbled through his and Wufei's lockers, pulling out their two towels before racing back, helping spread one on the wet floor under Duo before using the second to cover the gasping boy, desperately trying not to meet the violet gaze.
"Here I am, Mr nice guy, offerin' ta fix ya Gundam with mine, but noooo. See ya gotta have the parts ta fix stuff. Even the best engineers gotta have the parts." He complained, swinging his legs, combat boots striking the hard gundanium armour in a simple rhythm, shifting uncomfortably under the icy stare of the teenager he'd just saved.
"Baka, be quiet and let me work." Heero snarled, looking up from the open panel in Wings chest.
A gun muzzle lined up between two frowning eyebrows, lower lip being worried between teeth as the guns owner braced his arm for the kick back of the single shot that it would take to silence this unnecessary leak of information. A practised thumb clicked off the safety, the sound echoing in the deadly silence of the small cell that had housed the small Americans beaten form for the last week leading to his execution.
Violet eyes flicked open suddenly, staring at the harsh features before him in shock.
"Wow shit, you were really gonna kill me?!" He nearly shouted, getting a smirking repose from his best friend and a machine gun thrown at him instead.
"Wufei!" A scream. His own voice piercing the echoing corridors of the Oz jail that had housed the two of them for the last three days while he had struggled to open the magnetically locked door by rewiring it.
Distantly he felt the stinging of electrical burns on his fingertips, having employed every street trick he knew to get free. That stinging though disappeared under a far greater pain as the military knife that had been aimed at Wufei's back instead slammed home into his shoulder.
The same shoulder that he landed on with a gasp even as the Chinese boy spun, picking of the offender, one of the few remaining survivors of the base with his hand gun.
"Maxwell, you Baka. You could have been killed." The taller boy growled, pulling the long knife from the wound with a single sharp tug, clamping his hand over it to stop the escaping blood while the other pulled off Duo's sleeve, tying it tightly over the wound as a bandage.
"Ya welcome Wu-man."
A view from the branches of a tree, straddling a branch comfortably, watching as Trowa approached the front door of their current safe house. He walked casually up to the door having just returned with the others who were still locking up the car from the cinema, which he had not been invited to.
He was still 'grounded' by the professors, allowed out only for missions after getting drunk and being arrested.
The circus performer unlocked the door and stepped through into the house, pausing for a full ten seconds in the doorway. The branch shook as its occupant giggled, knowing very well what had happened.
Heero approached behind the emerald-eyed boy, watching as he turned, long fringe bedraggled as his turtleneck dripped on the doormat. Heero instantly stepped away from the glaring boy, struggling to keep the grin from his face.
"Duo, you Baka! I'm going to kill you!"
Sitting in the silent and darkened cockpit of Deathscyth he watched through his screens as Wufei entered the pitch black hanger bay, coming once again to 'worship' Nataku.
The Chinese boy, dressed in his traditional white pants and black vest, moved over to the light switches and flicked on the powerful over heads, hand covering his eyes in protection against the sudden light change. He slowly turned toward his towering Gundam, hand slipping away from the wall.
He blinked again, rubbing his eyes as he stared up at the monstrous figure of Shenlong. The huge Gundam representative of the L5 clusters. The monstrous, pink Gundam piloted by Wufei, image completed by the massive ears and white tail, transforming the war machine into a forty foot Easter bunny complete with sigh saying 'Happy Easter, Wu'.
"Maxwell, you Baka! You'll die for this!!!"
Soft hands lifted a cloth to his forehead, soothing coolness dripping down over his face, leaving icy trails over reddened flesh. Pain and heat raged through his body, every beat of his heart echoing in his skull, ever breath shallow and rasping.
A faint vision of blond hair and aqua eyes dark with worry, the soft cold flannel moving down his chest as his sweaty form was bathed. The cloth left his burning skin and something better replaced it, the ice cube rubbing slowly over his lips, stroking them as melting liquid trickled down his parched throat.
"Oh Duo, you Baka, why didn't you tell us you'd been hurt. Going through filthy water then not getting a chance to wash is not constructive to infections." A gentle voice murmured next to his ear as fingers, still damp from the cloth carefully tucked a strand of chestnut hair behind a reddened ear. "You could have died."
"Nah, Que." He rasped to his carer, throat crooking and painful, body temperature still too high but falling under his friend's care. "Ya can't kill death."
(End flash backs)
A thousand other images assaulted Duo's mind, watching through his own eyes as his friends called him that word, using it both as an insult and an endearment until it became a constant reminder of their friendship, a word that to him was as reassuring as a touch.
The familiar yet strange scenes faded, memories that a single word had revealed tucking themselves back in to Duo's mind where they belonged, but free once more for him to see. His body stilled, coming once again under his command and he dimly felt fingers stroke his skin, whispered words and platitudes that everything would be okay and just to try to stay calm.
"Wha…What's goin' on?" He murmured, stirring slightly in strong arms, feeling the heat of other bodies around him and concerned voices hushing as he spoke. He blinked hazily, trying to sit up only to find himself effectively pinned. The sight of a blurry and packed changing room came suddenly into view as well as Trowa's worried face.
"You had another fit. It lasted five minutes so try to stay still." The taller boy whispered, stroking Duo's wet hair from his face, supporting the American's lithe frame as weary and over tensed muscles protested any attempt at movement, commanding him by pain to obey Trowa and remain still.
"Why's this place so crowded?" Duo whispered, eyes falling slowly closed as tiredness caught up with him. The hand resting on his chest, smaller than that stroking his hair started to draw patterns on his flesh, moving up to his neck, trying to relax him into resting.
"The staff were worried Duo. Five minutes is a long time for a seizure. The ambulance is on its way so just try to sleep Duo. The nurse says that it's the best thing to do." The hand brushed over the bare flesh of his neck.
Duo's energy returned in a panicked burst, hand trying to free itself from the protective hold of a larger grasp to reach for his cross, scrambling desperately to reach the only thing of his family other than photos that remained.
"Hush Maxwell, we have your necklace, its safe." Wufei muttered over more concerned whispers speculating on the sudden movements of the injured boy surrounded by his teaching group.
Duo relaxed again, feeling the hand that gripped his give a reassuring squeeze. The world was slipping away again in to darkness and he was only distantly aware of being carefully lifted from the cold floor and on to a padded surface. Something was secured over his chest and legs.
A sudden lift and a soft pat on the shoulder before movement out into the open air, feeling wind whip over his hair but not his body, the comfort of a thick blanket being tucked in around his sides. Another lift and the slamming of doors. Then nothing.
"So Doc, got any answers?" A familiar voice asked, the normally cheerful tone lowered to a whisper and echoing with worry.
Dazed, Duo blinked his eyes slowly open, staring up at the pastel shaded ceiling and spotting the murals of handprints along the top of the walls. The bed under him was comfortable but too solid for his own tastes, having long since adapted to the feel of a hammock.
The room was quiet apart for the faint conversation and a very annoying regular beeping sound coming from his left just over his own head level. The air was full with the harsh scent of cleaning agents and the nauseating smell of an air spray that rather than covering the chemical smell instead worsened it.
"No. Neither the CAT scan or the EEG showed any abnormalities. When considering his past it is more likely that this could be just another symptom of his distress involving the death of his family. After shocks if you will. We've been monitoring him for two days now and haven't observed any further fits."
Duo sensed the reassuring smile in the doctor's voice, not yet ready to test the condition of his sight or worry Howard more by suddenly sitting up.
"I think what he really needs is to get a good nights sleep and get back in to his routine. I'm releasing him although I don't think he should go back to school until Friday at the earliest and no work with power tools for a good week just in case."
"Sure Doc, shall I get him ready?" Howard asked, voice getting closer as he stepped in to the hospital room, his heavy work boots clicking on the tiled floor.
"Yes, his clothes are in the draws beside his bed and I'll send a porter down with a wheel chair to deliver him to your car." The doctors trainers squeaked softly as the man turned to leave, long white coat rustling as he strode away.
Duo blinked again, failing to hide the sudden yawn that stretched his mouth open so far that his jaw popped.
Wiping his eyes on the back of a limp and numb hand that was still suffering the side affects of the IV it had been subjected to, only recently removed, he sat up, blinking at the approaching Hawaiian shirt.
The side of his bed creaked softly as another weight settled on its edge and a hand helped support his weak and still tired body as he swayed, blood rushing to his head. Another hand stroked his fringe out of violet eyes tenderly.
"Hey squirt, you get to come home now. Ain't that cool. No more disgusting hospital food." Howard murmured softly into Duo's ear as the small form rested a sleepy head against the older mans shoulder, barely aware of the fingers that undid his hospital gown, leaving him bare to the world. Softer material of a T-shirt stirred his long hair and his arms were carefully guided through sleeves.
Duo mumbled something, lifting his hips slightly to help Howard slip his underwear into place.
"Wanna go back ta school." Duo managed, voice slurred with the sedatives that had been pumped in to his system by the IV in order to keep him under for the scans to be run, Howard having warned the doctors of Duo's dislike for tight spaces. Weakly Duo's foot twitched as his socks were pulled on, Howard's finger running over the soft sole.
"And here I thought teenagers were meant to hate school." Howard muttered softly as he secured a pair of sweat pants that he'd brought in especially for Duo to wear back around the slim waist, stroking the heart shaped face with concern when the boy frowned.
"Mmmm…gotta go ta camp." Duo replied, straightening slightly as footsteps and the sound of rubber wheels on tile alerted him to the approach of the Porter.
Howard held his elbow as he slowly swung his legs out of the bed and stood gingerly on them as though he hadn't moved in such a way in so long that his body had forgotten how too.
"We'll see how you feel." Howard said, settling his nephew down in the padded wheel chair before ruffling his hair, trying desperately not to see the bruise that marred the side of Duo's forehead from where he'd fallen in the locker room. Violet eyes flicked open again, rising to meet Howard's own gaze.
Howard sighed to himself, grabbing Duo's duffel bag and walking beside the Porter as he pushed Duo to his waiting lift home in the form of a restored jeep. The boy rarely asked anything from him so he could not in good conscious refuse one of the few requests, despite Sally's advice to keep him in sight.
"I'll talk to your friends about it." He promised.
Duo glanced around at the watching eyes of the other pupils in his science class as he stepped through the door, on time for once to Mr Lewis' lesson only to find that the man in question wasn't even there to notice.
He hunched his shoulders defensively against the stares, walking faster than normal to his seat and dropping into place between Wufei and Odin, nodding his greetings while slumping down to hide in his seat from the curious students.
"Why's everybody starin' at me?" He asked softly, playing nervously with the end of his braid, tickling his own palms with the even ends of chestnut hair. Quatre smiled at the question, aqua eyes shining as he glanced Duo over, glad to see his friend not only conscious but acting like his normal self, if a little edgy.
"Rumours about what happened. Some people even thought you'd died. So I guess that means I'm talking to some sort of Demon." Quatre explained, smiling brilliantly at Duo who was facing the front of the class. The younger boy didn't smile. He didn't react in any way and just stared with unseeing eyes at the board.
"I'm Duo Maxwell, who may run and may hide but never tells a lie." He boasted proudly after shrugging off the restraining hands of the sweeper crewmen from his shoulders. He lifted his nose importantly, hands resting on lean hips clad in tight black trousers. The elderly man facing him glanced his starved but strong body up and down before raising an eyebrow.
"Maxwell. Hmmm, like Maxwell's demon?" The man asked, smirk tugging on his lips at his own comment, startled slightly when burning violet eyes met the professors without fear. The grin on the heart shaped face changed, becoming too wide, too manic. The professor shivered despite himself as he stared at the suddenly cold look on the otherwise happy face.
"Not a demon." The boy whispered; voice loud and confident in the silence, carrying a cold edge that made the huge crewmen take a weary step back. "I'm the God of Death."
(End flash back)
"Duo, you okay?" Quatre asked, smiling in an attempt to hide the worry once again present in his soft eyes while he waved a hand in front of Duo's vacant purple eyes. He was pleased when the younger boy jumped and batted the hand away.
"Shesh Q-man, scare the shit outa me why don't ya. I was just thinkin' 'bout somethin'." Duo complained, mock glaring at the Arabian who grinned weakly, seeing the braided boy's own smile as a forced one.
Wufei snorted from beside them.
"So there really IS a first time for everything." He muttered, smirking proudly as he fended of the hands that tried to cuff him for the insult, gently keeping the small hands at bay.
"Man, Wu, I'm hurt. So, you guys on still for camp?" Duo asked, glancing at Trowa carefully out of the corner of his eye, crossing his fingers under the table as the older boy straightened from the notes he was making to listen in to the conversation.
Quatre nodded mutely.
"Yes, we're going still." Wufei answered, clicking his pen safely into its lid and laying it down on the table, laughing manner gone. Even Odin sat up from his English homework to take note of what was happening.
"Are you?" The new boy asked; cobalt eyes cold and calculating, skimming over the still dark bruise that marred Duo's forehead, covered by a few extra strands of hair pulled free of his otherwise neat braid. Duo glanced at him, swallowing slightly before trying his attention to Trowa, eyes pleading.
"Howard says I can go if ya promised ya'd keep an eye on me an' report anything freaky ta him. Please Tro. I wanna go but it's you that Howie want's ta agree." Duo begged, staring intently into the emerald gaze. Trowa sighed, rubbing his face with one hand in serious thought. Quatre glanced at him.
"So what's all the fuss about. You don't mind keeping a medical eye on him do you Trowa? We can all help." The Arabian said cheerfully only to get a calm head shake from his best friend who was still watching Duo, eyebrows drawn down strictly.
"Duo. I will do this on several conditions. If you agree to them I will trust your word. Disobey me Duo and you will not enjoy what will happen. One. You are not allowed to swim, either in the pool or lake without at least three of us being present, when you do you must remain in sight and not play any stupid pranks. Two. If I tell you to sit out of an activity, you will do so without argument. I will have a good reason. Three. No wandering off on your own. You are to be within sight of one of us, at all times when you are outside of the cabin. Four. If you have a fit and we don't notice it you are to tell me. This includes trying to talk observers into not reporting it. I need to know if one happens, how long it lasted and will have to do a physical exam after it. I will also report any that last over a minute to Howard. Five. I want anything else reported Duo, nightmares, stomach upsets, and headaches. Everything. Do you agree to those?"
Duo swallowed again, before nodding softly, eyes never leaving Trowa's to show his honesty, quite surprised at the length of the normally silent boy's speech. That in itself showed how concerned the older boy was about his well being. Trowa reached out past Quatre and Wufei to gently stroke the bruise staining Duo's face.
"I promise Trowa. No stupid stuff."
"Good. I'll speak with Howard after school when we come round to pick you up." Trowa agreed , letting his hand fall back to the table as Mr Lewis re-entered the room. Quatre glanced between the two before leaning closer to Trowa to whisper something to him as their teacher started the lesson.
"Er ist krank, nicht sterbend. Reg dich doch nicht so auf!" (He is ill, not dying. Calm down) Quatre muttered, resorting to Trowa's native German to stop the others from over hearing. Trowa glared at him.
"Bilde dir doch nichs ein!" (Don't kid yourself.) Trowa snapped back.
"Er kann gut schwimmen. Das brauchtest du nicht zu sagen (He is a good swimmer. You didn't need to say that.) Quatre whispered back angrily, aqua eyes darkening at the larger European boy. Trowa sighed softly, nodding.
"Ja, er kann schwimmen gut, aber nicht im mittlere von anfall. Er konnen sich wehtun." (Yeah, he is a good swimmer, but not in the middle of a fit. He could get hurt.). Trowa murmured, eyes sad as he looked down at the Arabian, worry written on his features.
"Ich nicht…." Quatre started softly but was interrupted by a voice that he defiantly didn't want to hear.
"Ich spracken Dauche meinen freunds." (I speak German my friends.) Duo said, violet eyes smiling at the stunned pair, grin working its way up his face. "I'll be fine I swear."
Slowly Trowa and Quatre nodded their understanding, waiting until Duo turned away, concentrating on the board before exchanging nervous looks, Quatre's pen scribbling a private note in the margin of his work.
'Since when can Duo speak three languages?'
Trowa just shrugged and turned away, brow furrowed in thought.
Howard eyed his nephew, dressed in black combat trousers, combat boots and a deep blue T-shirt baring the images of a cartoon series on the front, picture worn and faded but words still proudly proclaiming that the teenager watched Dragonball Z.
He had a duffel bag over one shoulder and his black baseball cap pulled down to shade his eyes from the sun. The knot in his stomach tightened again as Trowa stepped out of Rashid's huge people carrier and nodded in greeting, leaving Duo to shove his stuff in the boot of the massive car to speak to him. All the time Sally's warning kept echoing in his ears.
"Howard. I have packed a full medical kit, complete with sedatives if they are required. I will insure that you are alerted to any changes in Duo's condition. You have my word." Trowa reported; gesturing to the plastic case sitting in the back of the car marked with a clear white cross against green.
Though the holiday camp was fully managed by councillors and had a nurse in residence, the circus performer always went with a medical kit. They were permitted a lot of freedom in the acres of private land owned by the Sank royal family. It had been set up as a paradise for under eighteen's, especially those who had lost family in the wars or were orphans, a support program set up by the Peacecraft's almost a year ago. The camp was a good hundred miles away from Sank's capital and was an escape for anyone who wanted to make use of it.
Howard nodded softly, watching as Duo stored his stuff and came jogging back, smile on his face.
"I trust you Trowa. Call me at any time if you feel it's necessary." Howard muttered, slapping Trowa's shoulder and offering him a false grin of dismissal before catching Duo up in a tight hug.
"No worries Howie, I'll be fine, swear." Duo whispered into Howard's chest, feeling the older mans arms tighten around him and fingers gently stroking his hair. Howard sighed softly, tilting Duo's chin up so he faced him, forcing another happy look on to his face.
"Mind Trowa and the others okay. Be careful." He paused, eyes looking weary as he meet beaming violet, shadowed with something he had not seen in a year and prayed would never darken Duo's soul again. "No matter what kid I'll always care for ya, understood?"
He released the boy who stared up at him in confusion for a second before nodding and charging to the waiting car, sliding in to the seat between Odin and Trowa in the middle seat row, Wufei behind them and Quatre in the passenger seat. They waved as they pulled away and Howard watched until the silver car left his sight.
His shoulders slumped slightly as he moved away, toward the hanger, eyes locked on the completed looming figure of the grim reaper guarding the house, ten-foot form easily visible. He shivered involuntarily; noticing that within its hood Duo had painted glowing green eyes that stared off after its creator.
"Seems forgetting is harder than it first seemed." Howard murmured to himself, tucking his hands in to his pockets, face wrinkled and eyes cold with his now more apparent age.
The five teenagers waved the silver people carrier good bye, all struggling to control pleased smiles until Rashid would no longer be able to see them.
In the camps main plaza groups of younger children were meeting their councillors and saying their first farewells to their parents, some clinging to their mothers, suddenly unwilling to be parted. Their cabins were closer to the main buildings, leaving them near the nurse and adults.
As the cabins moved away from the plaza in a near perfect circle the campers got older and the cabins further apart, leaving each with more privacy, the circles split in half, one side girls, the other boys, each edge guarded by a cabin of carers. The farthest cabins, not painted pastel colours were for the over fourteens, wood built and rustic, small enough to only take small groups of friends, their inhabitants having agreed to share rather than be assigned their room mates.
There were fewer councillors for the outer rings, most of them in their mid twenties, with one shared between every three cabins.
Rashid had left them at the cabin they'd used twice before and had been assigned again, complete with its own patio, mini living room and on suite bathroom.
Everyone ate in the canteens (multiple, set up for different ages) and activities were run differently for each age, with rock climbing, swimming, hiking and canoeing being just some of those that over fourteens were allowed to do with whatever councillor was working on that at the assigned time.
"We have timetables?" Odin asked, glancing at the booklet he'd been handed, detailing when which groups were permitted to take part in an activity. He glanced up at the cabin, glancing the newly built log home over with raised eyebrows, worry clear in his face.
"Uh-huh. Gotta cause camps so big. We're, um in the Oaks area so we gotta work with them." Duo chirped, all but jumping up and down, torn between charging in to the cabin to dump his stuff and renewing friendships with their neighbours who he hadn't seen since the last camp two month ago.
"Oaks?" Odin muttered sceptically, noticing the sign on the side of their cabin that labelled it as 'The hollow oak' hut. Wufei placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"All the camp is named like that. The six to tens cabins are named after animals, ten to fourteens are named after birds and ours are named after trees. Each cabin has its own starting name with three cabins baring the same last name. You'll pick it up after a while. We also have street names in the inner plaza to help the little kids." The Chinese boy explain, pushing Odin gently toward the waiting cabin door, nodding his thanks to Trowa and Quatre who were now physically restraining a hyperactive Duo, giving Odin a chance to look around their home for the next few weeks before Duo messed the place up.
Though the cabin consisted technically of only two rooms, a bathroom off to one side with one massive room serving as both bedroom and living area, it wasn't all that bad.
Larger than it appeared on the out side it had a fake electrical fire already working in the fireplace, comfortably heating the room. Positioned around this was two sofa's, each a two seater with another two easy chairs beside them. A rug was between them and the fireplace.
Across the far side of the room, in a small alcove provided with a thin wall that separated the living area and bedroom were three wooden bunk beds, each made up with thick, brightly coloured sheets and pillows. Besides each sat a chest of draws, the floor here carpeted a rich blue.
A clatter behind them alerted Wufei to the fact that Duo had escaped. He easily side stepped, letting the braided boy charge past and vault up on to one of the top bunks, swinging easily over the safety bar with his bag and sitting happily up on his claimed bunk, feet hanging over the edge. Odin blinked up at the boy who was beaming, already starting to unpack.
"You don't waste time do you." He muttered, stepping back to allow the other three to take their normal bunks before selecting a free one for himself.
Wufei stepped past, dropping his bag on the bunk under Duo's while Quatre flopped on to his own to the left of Wufei's on the bottom of the bunk. Trowa though rested his hands on his hips, his emerald eyes staring sternly up at the unpacking teenager, face set ready for an argument.
"No Duo." Trowa growled, stepping forward, eyes never leaving the questioning violet gaze directed down at him.
"Huh?" Was the intelligent response.
"Take a bottom bunk please." Trowa asked, voice softening slightly as he placed his own stuff on the bunk above Quatre's, silencing any of the blondes questions with the comforting hand that he placed on Quatre's slim shoulder.
Being the tallest he easily reached up and lifted Duo's duffel bag down, settling it instead on the bottom bed of the vacant bunk to the right of Wufei's. He gestured for Duo to jump down but the boy just cocked his head.
"But I always have this bunk Tro." Duo murmured; hand clasped around the safety bar marked with his initials. Trowa nodded sadly.
"I know Duo. But Odin can take it now." Trowa tapped the sheets on the bottom bunk commandingly, noticing Odin wince at the mention of his name, worried that in taking Duo's bunk he'd some how lose the others friendship.
"Encase…Encase you fall Duo." The taller boy whispered; eyes down cast.
"But the safety…" Duo protested.
"Please Duo, just take this bunk." Trowa pleaded, watching as his youngest friend's shoulders slumped and he slid off of his bunk, landing casually on the floor, never noticing the hands that Wufei held ready to catch him if some thing happened.
He threw a forced smile at Odin in comfort as the other boy moved to take the bunk and he instead dumped his stuff on the sheets that Trowa had indicated, glancing the bed over as though it was something that disgusted him.
He didn't sit down and instead moved toward the cabin door.
"Where are you going?" Trowa asked.
Duo snapped towards him, frustration burning in his eyes.
"Out okay or is that dangerous too?" He growled, shoving his hands violently in to his pockets. Trowa didn't react to the anger in Duo's voice, eyes remaining calm.
"To say hey ta the guys in the Oaks." Trowa nodded, effectively giving his approval, watching as Duo stalked out, slamming the door behind him. Wufei snarled as he turned to Trowa, raising an eyebrow in contempt.
"Don't you think that's over the top? Duo's had nightmares here and never fallen out of his bunk." He asked, voice hard, not liking to see his younger friend so upset. Trowa sighed softly, beginning to place his folded clothes in his draws, eyes hidden by his long fringe.
"No. It's not over the top." He answered, barely audible.
"Come on Trowa, your sisters paranoia must be rubbing off, Duo's fine." Quatre added, smiling softly at the joke, trying desperately to lighten the tension in the room. Odin just watched silently from his bunk, fingers brushing over the carved wood sadly. Trowa's head snapped up, eyes sparkling angrily as he faced the two that questioned him, features hard.
"Duo is most defiantly NOT fine. He is ill, and what's worse is that illness could strike at any second. You all saw what happened in the changing rooms. Now picture that when he's climbing his bunk, or swimming or rock climbing without a harness which is what you know he does when he wanders off." Trowa paused, watching with satisfaction as both Quatre's and Wufei's eyes widened, the blond trembling slightly at the idea of losing a friend in such away. Odin interrupted, voice perfectly calm.
"It's not the fits themselves that are dangerous. It's what occurs because of them. Trowa's right to be careful and we'll all need to keep an eye on Duo. We should also warn the rest of the Oaks and perhaps even the councillors in charge." He commented, glancing down at Trowa for his approval, relieved when the other smiled in thanks and nodded his agreement. Wufei started for the door, face determined.
"I'll inform the nurse and councler for our area." He muttered, disappearing out of the door, not hearing the sigh that Quatre released.
"He's going to hate me for it but I'll tell the rest of the Oak's once he gets back." The blond said; eyes down cast, Trowa squeezed his shoulder in support before dropping down on the bunk beside him.
Hands reached for him, pleading, begging, screaming mindlessly, their blood drowning him, forcing it way deep in to his stomach and lungs.
Until the footsteps approached, until the glowing arched blade slashed down the shadows that tormented him, leaving him lying naked and cold in a pool of the blood that stained his body crimson.
Coughing he pulled himself to his knees, violet eyes staring up at the hooded form, offering its hand down to him. The feeling of safety washed over him as he was pulled to his feet, gaze never leaving the burning green pupils that glowed from the hoods darkness. The strong hands steadied him, black wings wrapping smoothly around his naked body, offering warmth and protection. The visage of the grim reaper was offering him comfort.
Its clawed fingers gently brushed his blood soaked hair from his eyes, pulling him against its solid body, hood inclining so that its eyes stayed locked with his own.
"You're not the same." Duo whispered, wrapping his arms around the taller form, burrowing his head into the soft robe, feeling the warm body beneath.
'I am both. Result of your joining, my beautiful other.' It purred, the words rumbling through its chest where it cradled Duo's body, black wings tightening slightly, stroking the stained skin.
"What's happening to me?" The claws stroked down the heart shaped face, tender and careful in their movements, while that robed creature sighed. Duo giggled softly as its warm breath danced over his shoulder, stirring his braid that tickled the back of his thighs.
'Remembering what was taken. Accepting the past. Accepting me.' The voice explained, the growled words broken and drawn out thoughtfully. The figure shifted slightly, turning Duo around to that the boys back was pressed tightly to the front of its robes, letting Duo see out into the swirling darkness, the wings holding him in place, the claws wrapping around the thin chest, drawing circles on the thin stomach.
'Time to see truth. Time to see why.'
Something in his head began to ache, like a pressure, like something was pushing at something in his mind, trying to get free. Then the darkness exploded in to colour, images passing his eyes so quickly that Duo could barely see them all, world spinning as the memories assaulted his body until the only surety was the warmth pressed against his back, the wings and arms that hugged him. Until his mental voice was hoarse from screaming and his eyes sore from crying.
'Remember birth. Start of Duo Maxwell. Remember why…and sleep till you understand.'
Duo sat up, tears flowing down his face and hugged his knees to his chest, rocking his own body slowly back and forth, part of him wishing that the blankets around his shoulders were once again wings. Wishing that the figure had remained with him rather than leaving him alone to face the hell that had come with consciousness. And the images that still assaulted him.
A burning church.
A dying woman embracing him one last time as blood oozed from a bullet wound in her chest.
The form of a still man, blood rolling down from his face on to his white collar, soiling the religious clothing.
And pain. An agony beyond any injury from his heart.
Then a numbing loneliness as hands secured his unresisting wrists, as arms carried him to a car then set him on a thin bed. The sound of a key turning in a lock and worried voices discussing what had happened.
The laughter of a tormentor.
The fists that struck him.
The words that haughted him.
The memories that blocked even sight as he watched the loses again.
Watched Solo die in his arms, killed by his failure. His weakness.
Watched Sister Helen slip away, killed by his mistake. His weakness.
Hours. Days. Weeks faded into each other.
Hands feed him, washed him. Guards with children who cared.
Consciousness and dreams merged into the same visions.
Of death and destruction.
Of loss and pain.
Of darkness and hate.
Hands hit him, lips taunted him, and fingers touched him.
And Duo Maxwell screamed, begging for help from the only thing willing to give aid.
The darkness cleared, the images faded.
And a shield rose between him and the emotions that plagued him.
A mouth pulled in to an expression it had never used before.
A manic grin formed on a face too young to know the hate that it wore.
The wandering hands tightened on the smooth skin of a nine-year-old.
The silence was broken as a gun fired.
A limp body hit the floor as the figure stood, laughing.
Blood stained young hands.
A door open and again the gun spoke.
Until that world dissolved into screams, blood and laughter.
Until Death walked the mortal realm.
Shielding its other.
Duo whimpered softly to himself, confusion making his head hammer. Was it all just a nightmare or was it true? He rubbed at his temple before quietly standing up, dressed in his sweat pants and tank top, moving slowly over to Trowa's bunk. He climbed up on to the rail, leaning over his sleeping friend, blinking tears from his eyes before grasping the older boy's shoulder, shaking him awake. Hazy emerald eyes stared up at him in confusion before Trowa sat up, hand reaching forward to brush comfortingly against Duo's cheek.
"What's up?" Trowa whispered, stroking away a tear.
"I had a nightmare." Duo murmured, voice catching in his throat, fear still clear in his face. Trowa nodded softly in understanding.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked getting a violent headshake in response. Duo never spoke of what he saw in the dreams that left him trembling and breathless, that denied him any further sleep for that night.
"T..Trowa…I-I think I'm remembering." Duo stuttered; violet eyes dim and scared in the gloom that the electric fire created. Trowa covered a yawn, nodding even as he slowly slipped back in to sleep.
"Okay Duo, try to get some rest, we'll talk in the mornin'." He mumbled, eyes fluttering closed, leaving Duo alone in the darkness. The American nodded sadly and dropped silently back to the floor, wandering back to his bunk, hugging himself as he laid down. He knew he would not sleep but part of him wished for unconsciousness to take him, wanting to feel the wings again.
Quatre watched as Duo played with his breakfast, moving his scrabbled eggs around amongst his sausages, hiding it under his bacon, fork never leaving the ceramic plate.
The only thing he'd touched had been his coffee mug which he'd drained in a few gulps, refilling it three times more before Wufei had moved the pot away from him with a warning glare.
All of the others had finished eating already and were vaguely nibbling on spare pieces of toast, watching as Duo rearranged his food, all of them secretly praying that he would eat at least some.
The canteen was emptying, members of the Oak's group walking past with concerned smiles on their faces, trying desperately not to stare at their normally happy friend. Duo was well known in camp for going back up for seconds and thirds during a meal and for starting most food fights.
Often during meals he'd charge around, ordering people to eat faster so he could go back out to do more activities or snapping off questions at anyone not chewing about anything under the sun. The canteen had been nearly silent without his input and the Hollow Oaks table had been attracting worried glances from everyone in the last twenty minutes.
"Please eat something Duo." Quatre begged, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence, hands fidgeting nervously on the table. Duo didn't even look up when he answered, eyes staring intently at the untouched and nearly cold breakfast.
"I'm not hungry." He whispered; then winced at the sharp pan in his head.
"I'm not hungry." He murmured, looking dejectedly at the cookies that Quatre offered, watching the frown spread across the blonde's forehead as he stepped closer and dropped on to the sofa beside the American, knowing that the eyes of the other pilots were watching them both.
"Please Duo, just a few. I got you some milk as well." Quatre pleaded, offering the glass filled nearly to the brim to his down cast friend, watching until the boy accepted the glass and downed half of it, failing to hide the wince on his face.
Quatre handed him the first of the biscuits and he ate five, swallowing quickly so that he would not taste them going down. Quatre's hand reached out and stroked his cheek softly, a smile gracing the blonde's features. "Thank you Duo."
Half an hour later he left the sofa and headed for the bathroom, his stomach complaining all the way until he was nearly sprinting.
He ran in to his and Heero's shared room and over to their private bathroom, dropping to his knees in front of the toilet bowl, feeling bloated. He lifted the seat and gently stroked his finger along the inside of his throat, triggering his gag reflex.
The bloated feeling disappeared as he emptied his stomach. He rested his head on the bowl edge, trembling violently and slowly noticed the hands holding his braid out of the way and stroking his emaciated ribs.
"How longs it been Duo, since you ate and didn't throw it back up again?" Asked a gentle voice, arms pulling his shaking form against a muscled chest while fingers wiped away sudden tears.
"I can't remember."
(End flash back.)
He snapped back, struggling to concentrate on the words being said, his mind spinning.
"You shouldn't drink coffee on an empty stomach Duo, its bad for you." Trowa complained, reaching over the table to take the fork from the smaller hand, noticing how violently the fingers were trembling.
He used the fork to scoop up a bit of scrabble eggs, holding it out to Duo who just stared at it like it was offensive. Duo swallowed softly, mentally bracing himself against the pain as this simple movement triggered more memories.
"Come on Heero, even the perfect soldiers gotta eat sometimes and ya busted up both ya hands. I gotta feed ya." He explained, trying desperately to suppress the smile that was fighting its way to his lips at seeing Heero in the safe house bed, in Duo's spare Digimon sleeping bag with his hands bundled up in bandages that looked amazingly like mittens.
Heero glared at him, cobalt eyes promising a hideous death, jaw locked closed.
"Pretty please Heero? Wu-man cooked it. Egg fried rice, ya know ya like it."
Heero shook his head, doing a very good impression of a spoilt child. Duo had to bit his lip to stop from giggling. He scooped up a helping of rice on the spoon, leaning over the sitting up teenager, violet eyes beaming.
"Here comes the wing zero…" He purred, making aeroplane noises as he made the spoon fly toward Heero's mouth, touching the metal to the tightly clenched lips.
Heero raised an eyebrow at the comment, growling to himself as Duo dropped the spoon and collapsed off of the bed in hysterical laughter, clutching desperately at his aching ribs. Heero rolled his eyes at his best friend's actions before sending a pleading glance at Wufei who stood in the doorway. The Chinese boy nodded at the silent message.
"Yes, I suppose he was a rather stupid choice." He agreed.
(End flash back)
Duo stood, leaving Trowa silently holding out the still full fork and walked toward the door, pausing at the canteen exit to wait for them.
Trowa sighed softly, dropping the fork and stood as well, the others trailing behind him as he left the room, leaving Odin to gently put an arm around Duo's shoulders, leading him back toward their cabin. The newest member of the group offered the down cast boy a soft grin, feeling Duo's body tremble under his arm, noticing that the violet eyes remained fixed on the floor.
Wufei held the cabin door open for them and Odin released Duo as he moved silently over to one of the two person sofas. Duo curled up on the warm cushions, barely noticing as Quatre threw a blanket over him and knelt on the rug, watching his friend's pained and weary face, reaching out to stroke the hair from rapidly blinking eyes.
"Duo, do you want to come swimming with us?" The blond asked quietly, aqua eyes loving and concerned. Trowa's callused hand touched Duo's exposed forehead, checking his temperature as Quatre tucked the blanket around the abnormally still and silent frame.
"No thanks. I…I'm really tired. Haven't been sleepin' well." Duo mumbled; eyes fixed on the dancing light of the electrical fire. Quatre nodded in understanding, moving aside for Trowa to take his place.
"I'm sorry I fell asleep last night Duo, but you mentioned something about remembering. Is that what you see during the fits?" He asked, emerald eyes watching as both Odin and Wufei disappeared to find their swimming customs, leaving Quatre to sit beside Duo's feet, long fingers untying the half tied shoelaces of the combat boots, slipping them off carefully.
"Y…Yes." Duo stammered, shivering as he fought off another wave of memories trying to hold them at bay until he was alone.
"Do you want me to call Howard? Ask him to pick you up?" Trowa offered, features set seriously, hands folded together on the cushions as he leaned forward, staring in to Duo's face.
"No. I just need some sleep Trowa. It's just tiring. The flashes of memories are confusing." Duo paused, forcing a weak smile. "Go swim okay, I swear I won't leave the cabin. I'll just grab a nap." He promised, squeezing the clenched hands in reassurance, eyes drifting slowly closed in proof of his fatigue.
"Okay. See you in a few hours." He heard faintly, barely aware of the five sets of feet moving out of the door, hands stroking his hair in goodbye, and the soft bang of the door closing.
Duo's eyes flashed open after a five-minute wait, making sure that no one was going to return to disturb him. He slid off of the sofa on to the rug and curled in a tight ball.
Carefully he reached up to his neck and removed his cross, stroking it lovingly before zipping it into his trouser pocket. He pulled the blanket tightly around himself and rested his head on the thick material of the rug, releasing a sigh.
"I want to remember." He whispered to himself.
In the Hollow Oak cabin, on the outer ring of the Sank holiday camp a scream went unnoticed as pain coursed through a small under weight body. As one who had struggled so hard to forget was forced to remember.
Always within the safety of black wings and strong arms.
Pain. Agony burning through his every nerve, flowing through his body from multiple wounds all over his lithe form.
The impact of yet another boot in already cracked ribs.
The rasp of breath dragging in bruised lungs. Air rushing past split lips.
They denied him food, but hunger was a well-known friend. His body had survived the hollow feeling before. It would again.
They denied him light but he was a thief. Darkness was his ally, he did not fear it.
They denied him a bed but he was street kid, used to the feel of concrete as he slept, used to the numbing cold.
They denied him companionship but he had been lonely for a lot of his young life.
They denied him sound and he thought he might die. Nothing to stop the silence. Nothing to stop the pain. Nothing to distract him from the loss. Nothing to fill the gapping emptiness in his heart. Nothing to help him ignore the missing feelings that were blocked from his mind.
He'd never met silence before. His voice filled it; his music held it a bay and the hissing voice guarded him from its touch. But that figure was gone, torn from his mind by the person he thought was a friend.
Trowa had killed his other and slowly the feelings were returning. His shield was failing and he felt like the rush of emotions would drown him. Without his other he was nothing.
So he cheered, taunted and cussed the soldiers on, daring them to kill him. Daring them to finally grant him death. But they always stopped just before the beating became fatal. Always stopped just in time. Always.
Burning, hands tearing at his trousers while a warm body pulled him into a tight hug, whispering reassurances.
Wetness ran down his leg in torrents but he was numb to the pain he knew he should be feeling.
The white ceiling, water stained and cracked with age swam in his vision before shifting to become the pillows of their newest safe house. Something held him down and more whispers echoed in his ears, faint and muffled. Something about removing a bullet, an apology and then…
He screamed as something cold entered the wound, probing. The heavier bodies held him still as he thrashed. Soft words were murmured, calming hands stroking uninjured flesh as that coldness went deeper and began to pull.
He was glad when the darkness took his vision and wings held him again within their embrace, protecting him.
"Duo?! Get up!"
Words, too loud, too close. Familiar hands pulling him up, cobalt eyes staring in to his as an arm wrapped around his waist, pulling him away from the shouts.
Too much pain.
Too much fear.
Heero yelling for him to keep running, a promise that the exit was close; that they would survive. Just a bit more pain, a bit more effort and everything would be fine again. But it had never been fine. Never. He had too many scars to prove that, this new bullet through his shoulder, cutting straight through the strap of his lucky pack just being yet another.
It would never be fine. There would always be more missions, more suffering, more nightmares. What was there to live for? He couldn't do it anymore. The need to continue was slowly slipping away, flowing further from his grasp with every drop of blood spilled from his wound.
The blackness loomed to take him.
Only to be slashed away by cruel claws. Massive wings entwined him, taking away the pain, blocking the weariness and lending strength.
The need to survive pumped through his veins with his burning blood and he pulled away from Heero's arm, sprinting forward even as bullets cut the air around him. He shrugged his pack off and reached into his bags hidden compartment, pulling something from the scanner proof base where his weapons were stored.
The familiar weight in his fingers made him smile, violet eyes sparkling with an unnatural green flame, making Heero swallow as they ran side by side. A manic grin twisted his features and he stopped running.
He would never run from death.
He would never fear death.
Because he was Death.
He would never fear himself.
He faced the on coming Oz soldiers and laughed at them. At their weakness. At their mortality. They were losing to a group of teenagers. Two armies were falling to five children. How could he be scared of them?
He faced their raised weapons, activating the grenade and threw it at the hesitating troops. The corridor exploded, the force wiping at the long braid and stirring his fringe from his eyes.
When the smoke cleared only burning corpses were left. It was a scene from a nightmare, from his nightmares but it mattered little. The wings were there, the arms cradled him and the claws drew tender patterns without ever harming his tanned skin.
He chuckled and turned, sprinting after Heero, jumping into the waiting jeep that Wufei had waiting for them, beaming the entire time, eyes glowing. He never even noticed the worried looks exchanged.
"Duo, are you okay?" One of them asked carefully as a strong hand pulled the backpack away and pressed in to the wound.
"Not Duo, Shinigama." He snapped, folding his arms angrily over his chest, ignoring the pain from the wound. He didn't feel it. The shield was in place. Heero just nodded, stroking his face with smooth fingers, silencing Wufei's comment with a glance.
"Can Duo come back?" He asked, cobalt eyes determined as they meet eerie violet, the manic grin slipping slightly in surprise that Heero had so easily understood, although with the immense knowledge of the perfect soldier it was hardly strange that he new of the idea of split personalities.
"My other is…scared. He will return to you when he is ready." The cold voice explained. Heero nodded, missing Duo's cheerful accent already. Their first encounter with Shinigama was not a positive one.
(End flash back)
Duo felt warmth dribble down his chin. Felt the strands of the carpet wet under his cheek. He smelt the scent of saw dust and green growing things, the scents of a forest.
Sounds assaulted his ears, the soft creeks of stretching planks, the clicks of the electric fire and the rasp of breath from his panting lungs. He was back in the cabin and the memories were slowly fading, leaving him with an aching head and gapping holes still present within his mind, not yet triggered.
It was easier to remember the suffering. It was the bits between, the memory of the family he had loved, that had loved him and that he had once again found, only to realise that they did not remember him as he did them. Emotions.
He could not remember them; he could only feel the physical pain. The guilt, the remorse, the sadness that should have assault him was missing, leaving a gapping hole within him.
Some one had made them all forget. Someone had lied to them, stolen their very lives from their minds and he was planning on finding out why.
Gingerly he sat up, reaching up to brush his hand over his damp chin, hand coming away streaked with rapidly drying blood. He'd bitten through his own lip.
He rolled to his feet, staggering as muscles complained before forcing himself upright and marching to the bathroom. He washed his face, pouring icy water over the red and swollen lip before moving toward his bunk and picking up his unpacked bag, slipping in to his boots as he returned to the sofa.
He had a mission. After nearly a year he had another mission. To find out the truth.
To find out what was coming and what had been. And to return to his brother. The brother that called to him, its voice growing stronger since his acceptance.
But all missions needed equipment.
He set the bag on the blood stained rug, seating himself behind it. He pulled off his T-shirt and looked down at his own chest for confirmation. For proof of the truth he was slowly discovering. There on his stomach was the round scar of the first fit, the first memory.
A more jagged scar in his left shoulder from the knife. Long, crossing scars from the beatings, belt marks and boot split skin marring his young flesh. And there, on his right shoulder, just over his lung, another round hole that matched the other he knew marked his right leg.
He picked up the right strap of his pack, thin fingers smoothing over the material until it found the barely hidden weakness under a sown on badge. It was his lucky pack. The same pack he'd always used.
Someone had ensured that he'd kept it.
But only two people other than himself knew how to open the hidden compartment. One was Heero or Odin, or whatever he was called.
The other…he could not remember.
He was not related to the pain. The other memories needed more direct triggers, familiar words or actions, not just pain. He sighed, fingers reaching for the bag's base, knowing that even empty the bag had always felt too heavy. He touched the release button and felt the scanner proof section protecting the zip from sight slip upward into the bag's cloth.
Carefully he unzipped it, knowing that unlike on a mission his equipment wound not be lose and ready to use. Instead he reached in and pulled out a square matt black reinforced box, nine inches long and three deep. He set it down in front of him, pressing his thumb against the scanner as his free hand pulled his necklace from his pocket and slipped it back on.
A LED flashed green and a lock clicked open. Drawing in a deep breath, not quite sure of what he would find, he lifted the lid and sighed in joy.
There in the padding was the knife that he'd thrown at Dorothy. Solo's knife. He tenderly lifted it free, fingers drifting over the wider groves before he slid it scabbard and all into his right boot.
Even unknowingly he'd always kept the weapon nearby.
He reached in again, fingers pulling out a battered looking baseball cap, faded from black to grey and burnt in places. He pulled it on, amazed that the material, despite its age was still soft. It fit him perfectly.
His hand nervously reached for the packet of detonators and their controlling remote, setting the bag down to one side. His thumb stroked over the safety guard, flipping it up in a practised move.
"Now?" He asked, getting a frustrated sigh in response from his partner who watched the base through binoculars.
"For the twenty ninth time Duo, no! Not until the commander returns." Heero snapped; frowning at the pout aimed his way.
He offered the smaller boy a comforting smile, reaching over to ruffle his chestnut hair, knowing that waiting was not one of Duo's strong points. He loved setting explosives but he loved detonating them even more.
Heero turned away from his best friend, returning to watching the base entrance in time to see a long limousine be waved into the compound and pull up beside the bases headquarters.
He smirked, folding the binoculars and shoving them back in to his pack, turning to Duo wearing an indulgent smile.
"Go on then."
Duo hesitated; worrying his bottom lip then offered Heero the remote.
"But ya never have a go. Ya should do it." Duo muttered, obviously reluctant to give away his chance to destroy something but eyes burning with determination to be fair. Heero chuckled at him, taking the offering hand in his own, larger fingers curling over Duo's as his thumb clicked up the safely. He pinned Duo's thumb under his against the smooth surface of the trigger, winking at the younger boy as he pushed down, both of them activating the explosions that shook the ground and lit up the sky.
(End flash back)
He sighed softly at the memory, the feel of his best friends hand over his, guiding him and protecting at the same time.
Odin was not the same as Heero. He did not have the same determination, the same strength. He missed it. With the others he had always felt safe but now, now they did not even know what they could do if they wanted. He set the remote down and turned to the last item in the box, swallowing softly as he removed it and placed it in its proper place, hands shaking.
He would try to convince the others of the truth before he left, he owed them that much at least.
But right now he needed something else that he had none of for his mission. Something that he could make out of anything. He stood and moved toward where the chemical cleaners were kept locked, pulling a paper clip out of his pocket. No lock could stop Duo Maxwell…
"Duo? You awake?" Quatre called, stepping in to the cabin with a bright smile, hair still wet from his trip to the lake.
He glanced at the empty sofa before moving aside for the others to come past, all wrapped in towels with clothes clutched in their hands.
"Duo?" Quatre moved forward, peering over the side of the sofa down to the rug where Duo was sitting cross-legged. The blond frowned as his aqua eyes scanned over the items scattered around the younger boy, noting with concern the bottles of bleach and various high strength and very toxic powdered soaps.
Wufei smirked as he crouched beside the intense American.
Duo had removed a small black chip from a packet beside his pack back and was carefully slotting it in to one tube made from what seemed to be the cabins guttering before shoving a wad of torn up T-shirt in after it to block off the end. Three similar tubes were sitting in the backpack, along with a strange remote of some kind. Wufei pulled out one of the tubes, glancing it over with a grin, not noticing Duo's watching eyes.
"What's this Baka, making diving weighs?" He asked before tossing the tube up into the air, smiling confidently. Duo's hand shot out and caught it before it fell, cradling it gently in his arms, checking the length over for damage before setting it back in to the pack with the other three. He zipped up the top before looking up.
"I'd really appreciate it man, if ya'd not play with somethin' that's highly explosive. It ain't good for your health." He drawled; standing slowly to stretch as four sets of eyes stared at him in shook.
"Okay…" Quatre murmured softly, noticing with a start the weapon tucked in to the other boys combat boots. "Why have you got something that's highly explosive Duo?" He asked logically, backing away from the braided boy nervously, sharing startled looks with the others. Duo smiled at him, eyes glowing brightly but with a slightly manic gleam.
"For a mission Que. I gotta go find who nicked all our memories." He explained, smiling happily as he gently picked up the backpack and set it down on the sofa, turning to face the others in the room.
"What do you mean 'our memories'?" Trowa asked, shifting slightly as he slowly moved toward the medical kit set up on the top of his chest of draws, hands behind his back.
"The memories that I've been rememberin'. Of fightin' and stuff." Duo shrugged softly, tapping his foot as though he was bored with the entire conversation and just wanted to have them believe him. Quatre swallowed, taking a step forward, knowing that when Trowa found what he needed they'd have to pin Duo before he could pull out his knife.
"Duo, I don't remember anything about fighting. Now maybe you just had a bad dream or something but we can help you through this. You're just confused." Quatre said reassuringly, keeping his eyes locked on the suddenly frowning boy so as not to give away that Odin was approaching behind him.
"Bad dream? Que they stole our pasts! But he's helpin' me ta remember. I can prove it!" Duo rambled softly, eyes sparkling as he reached up to stroke his own temples. He didn't like these questions. They were making his head hurt again, this tender contempt and barely hidden worry, like when…when…
"Who's helping you to remember? Duo if someone's given you something you need to tell us. Have you taken anything?" Quatre demanded, fists clenching at the very thought of anyone giving his younger and more naive friend anything in his weakened state. Duo's face shifted to an expression that Quatre had never seen it form before, one of barely controlled rage.
"I ain't on drugs! This is the truth Que!" Duo snapped, glaring at the blond, body trembling in fury. Odin was barley a metre away now, hands raised ready to grab the smaller boy.
"Duo, hallucinations can feel very real. It could be just a fever or an allergic reaction, or…" Trowa listed, hand firmly on the sedative that he'd selected from his kit.
Odin lunged suddenly, throwing his body weight at his new friend, Quatre and Wufei moving forward to back him up.
Duo side-stepped and swung his elbow into Odin's stomach. The other boy fell to his knees, wheezing as he struggled to breathe past twitching muscles. Wufei crashed to the floor a second later, legs buckling under the sweep kick sent his way. He thudded heavily onto the wood as Duo slipped away from them, arms folded, still ignorant of the sedative held behind Trowa's back.
"I can prove it." Duo growled again, stubborn look coming over his features as he watched Wufei regain his feet and pull up a panting Odin who was hugging his bruised stomach. Trowa glared at him.
"Duo, you could have seriously hurt Odin, you need to calm down." Trowa snarled, parental expression of disapproval flashing to his features as he checked Odin over with his eyes. The other boy offered him a weak smile, forcing his body to straighten.
"Oh, please. Like I could really hurt Heero." Duo muttered, rolling his eyes at the comment. Odin frowned at him.
"This Heero thing again. My name is Odin Lowe." The cobalt eyed boy announced, looking weary at the fact that one of his so-called friends could not even remember his name.
"Ya name is Heero Yuy and ya like indestructible. Ya were my best friend too. That scar on ya left arm, how'd ya get it?" Duo asked, pointing out the long scar the stained the pale muscle on Odin's upper arm. Odin frowned at it, rubbing it as he thought. His eyes widened slightly in concern.
"I…I can't remember." He whispered. Duo smirked widely.
"I do, should as I gave it ta ya when ya tried ta kill Relena. I shot ya Heero." Duo chuckled as he thumbed his nose proudly at the shocked expressions he faced.
"That's insane Duo, he didn't even know you a week ago." Quatre shuffled his feet as that manic smile landed on him, scanning his pale body, dressed only in swimming trunks.
"How'd ya get that stomach wound Que?" Duo asked, noticing the blond start and protectively cover the scar. Wufei stepped forward, scowling.
"Why Maxwell, you going to take credit for that too? Am I to assume that you were protecting Queen RELENA Peacecraft from Odin, or Heero as you call him. That's a bit far fetched isn't it?" He asked, eyebrow raised.
"Nuh…no. It's not. He was gonna shoot her."
"But Duo, what was a junk yard kid doing protecting a Queen, she has body guards for that. Besides it would have been in the news."
"I ain't a junk yard kid, I'm Duo Maxwell, I'm a terrorist! And she weren't Queen then, she still thought she was someone else." Duo's brow wrinkled and he cradled his head in his hands, feeling the questions make his head ache again.
"So basically you're asking us to believe your word with no proof at all accept speculation?" Wufei took another step forward, black eyes burning in to Duo's suddenly unsure gaze. The younger boy shivered, mouth working slowly as he struggled to concentrate on an answer.
"You're my friends, ya should…ya always believed me. I run and I hide but I don't lie." Duo mumbled, backing up against the cabin wall, feeling the wood press something metallic against his flesh. He jumped at the contact, shaking as Wufei took another step.
"Okay Duo, what is more likely. That we are all terrorists that had our minds wiped and were placed all in the same school and that suddenly someone is helping you to remember or that in fact something is happening in your mind to make you hallucinate? In the words of most detectives, 'the most logical answer is often the right one.'" Wufei was barely two metres away and getting closer, the other three right behind him, ready to grab Duo and hold him still for Trowa to sedate.
Duo's fingers laced into his long hair, stroking over his own scalp in an attempt to stop the pain that was building there.
"It's true! I know its true, the scars match, and the pain. He said it was true!" Duo shouted, stamping his foot to accent the point. Quatre frowned at the comment.
"Who Duo? Who said it was true?" Quatre asked softly, moving to Duo's side to gently hug him, turning the boy slowly so that Duo's back was exposed to the others ready for the injection.
"The voice in my head. My other." Duo whispered, resting his head on the shoulder several inches above his own, feeling the musicians fingers stroking the back of his neck under his braid.
Quatre's frown increased as he nodded for Trowa to do what was necessary, hushing Duo gently as the needle slipped quickly into his backside.
Duo turned as Trowa pulled the needle out, feeling Quatre's arms tighten slightly. Trowa reached out with his free hand to brush Duo's fringe from his violet eyes, offering the younger boy a sad smile.
"Don't worry Duo, we'll get you the help you need. Just sleep." Trowa reassured, moving forward the help the blond to support their friend's weight, mentally counting down to the time in which Duo would slump into oblivion.
He reached zero but those violet eyes were still locked with his, a smile slowly growing on the Americans face, green flames burning in violet eyes. Trowa reached the over count of thirty and swore mentally as the small figure slumped to the floor, Duo settling the blond gently on to the floor.
He relaxed the finger pressed in to Quatre's jugular, cutting of the blood to the Arabians brain just long enough to knock him unconscious.
The smile on Duo's face changed as he stepped forward, becoming too wide, eyes glowing dangerously.
"Now Tro, did ya really think some little drugs gonna knock out a terrorist?" He asked; beaming when three sets of eyes widen in the split second before Duo's fist crashed in to his stomach, angled up in to the acrobat's diaphragm.
Trowa coughed before sagging to the floor, arms wrapped around his gut, submitting to the darkness that reached out to claim him.
"I owed ya that one Tro." He whispered; hand flashing out to the pressure point in Odin's throat and repeating his action on the Japanese boy from what he did on Quatre. He too slumped to the rug, leaving just Wufei.
The Chinese boy dropped in to a fighting stance, lip pulled in to a snarl at the sight of his friend so helpless to defend themselves. Duo tutted, looking up in to his black eyes.
"See Wu, I shouldn't be able ta take Heero out like that. That's why I gotta find out who took our memories. Gotta find out what these shadows are that are comin'. My brothers callin' me Wu and I gotta go. He ain't nothin' without me." Duo murmured, glancing at the door behind Wufei before his eyes came back to rest on the Chinese boy's face.
"Your insane." Wufei snapped. Duo nodded his agreement softly.
"I gotta go Wu, my head hurts. I need to be somewhere." The American explained, looking sadly at his friend, eyes begging for Wufei just to step aside and allow him to pass even as delicate fingers tightened in to fists.
"Only way your leaving here is unconscious or in a straight jacket." Duo sighed softly at Wufei's comment.
"Then I'm sorry Wu." His body snapped forward, faster than any sparing partner that Wufei could remember facing and smashed a fist into Wufei's chin. The blow stunned him, sending him staggering even as a carefully pulled round house kick crashed in to his temple, decking him and insuring that he would be staying there for some time.
Duo sighed as he picked up his rucksack, rubbing his temples to help relieve the discomfort growing behind his eyes. He swung the bag on to his shoulders and moved through the door with a last glance at his friends.
"Ya taught me too well Wu." He whispered before jogging off, headed out of the camp and toward the centre of New Port City, capital of the Sank Kingdom.
Trowa moaned as he sat up, gasping at the agony in his stomach that sent fresh flashes of pain up in to his lungs every time he drew a breath. He blinked his eyes open as the hand on his shoulder continued to shake him. He slapped at it, facing the worry drawn face of Odin as he struggled to his feet.
"He's gone." Odin informed him, rather too calmly, cobalt eyes flashing toward where Quatre was helping a dazed and bruised Wufei to his feet, a wet cloth pressed against the purpling mark across his temple and jaw.
Trowa nodded softly, moving unsteadily over to Quatre's bunk to sit down before pulling open the top draw of his chest of draws. He pulled out a slim mobile phone that Catherine had insisted that he take with him in case of an emergency. For once he was glad that he hadn't argued with her.
He punched in Howard's number, rubbing his eyes in an attempt to focus them before flicking the phone on to speaker so that the others who were gathering around him could hear. It rang three times before a click on the other end showed that the phone had been picked up.
Howard speaking. Came the gravely voice of some one who had not sleep well for quite a while. Trowa sighed.
"Hi Howard, its Trowa." The boy answered, voice raised slightly so that the receiver would pick it up.
Hey kid, something up? Duo have another fit? Howard asked, concern growing in his voice as Trowa paused, glancing at his three friends, unsure how to tell the older man the truth. Quatre slipped out from under Wufei's arm, letting the unsteady boy sit down before taking the phone.
"You could say that. He's gone." The blond answered for his best friend, throwing the European a thin but supportive smile.
Why didn't you stop him?! Howard demanded.
"Because he knocked all of us unconscious, despite having been pumped full of sedatives." Wufei winced at the Arabians honesty.
Duo had never fought that well against him. The boy had always been fast but never that calm in a fight, not even just against school bullies. What hurt worse than his injuries was the fact that the other boy had also held back against him, pulling the kick to stop from doing serious harm.
Something felt very wrong at that. Like his body knew that it should have done better but his mind had stopped him.
Shit. What was he talking about before that happened? Hoard asked, sounding more serious than the four had ever heard him. Odin frowned at the question before answering, wondering how Duo's uncle had known about his nephew's speech.
"Something about having our memories stolen and finding the people who did it. He thought he was a terrorist. He even left with some tubes he claimed were explosive." Odin muttered, glancing down at the bathroom cleaners still sitting on the rug.
Shit. Okay guys, stay put, we'll find him. The phone on Howard's end clicked down into its holder leaving the four of them listening to a dial tone.
"Why do I have this really bad feeling that Duo might have been right?" Odin asked nervously as he settled himself beside Trowa on Quatre's bunk. Quatre shrugged from his perch on Odin's own bunk.
"I don't know, but I have it too."
Howard slammed down the phone, growling to himself while he rummaged through his pockets for a key. He marched in to his bedroom and unlocked the top of a secure box, producing a very non-standard laptop from within and pulled it open, hitting the power button with more force than was required.
The computer hummed almost instantly to life, a glowing box demanding three passwords for access to its data. Howard hammered them in, wiping the nervous sweat from his forehead with his free hand as the laptop sped him through its security protocols and began its only purpose.
A face with a too long nose and mushroom shaped grey hair appeared on the graphics screen wearing a small smile.
Ah, Howard. It's been a while since you called. How is my favourite pilot? G asked, face though drawn and old, lightening at the prospect of hearing news about the boy he fully considered to be his grandson.
"He's why I called G. He's gone rogue. He's remembering." Howard answered, strain in his voice as his shoulders fell. He had failed the boy. Failed to protect him from his own memories. G's face went totally serious but the faint smile remained, eyes leaving the screen as he typed commands in to a computer out of the camera's pick up range.
Don't worry Howard, I have ways of finding Duo whether he wants me to or not. Boy never did find out about the bug I implanted in him. G muttered distractedly, winking at Howard who had straightened in relief that the Preventers would be able to locate the mischief maker before he could cause any major damage.
Knowing the mad five they would have his mental blocks back in place and have him back home in time for dinner. A puzzled look spread over G's face, his smile finally falling.
Now that's strange. He commented.
That bug was designed to work over huge distances, I should be able to locate him anywhere in the solar system. Yet I can't get a signal. G frowned at the computer that was causing all of his problems. Howard sat forward on his seat.
"Which means…?" G raised an eyebrow at him.
It means that either Duo's been abducted by aliens and is half way to the twilight zone or…something's jamming the signal. G rubbed at his lower lip thoughtfully, one hand still typing in commands. Howard's eye ticked as possible causes of the jamming went through his head.
"Could Oz have…"
Howard my dear friend, Oz could not jam a piece of toast unless I wanted them to. This is…something familiar. I have a bad…shit. Howard jumped at the exclamation, brushing a hand through his hair in what he hoped was a confidant movement.
I knew it was a mistake to make that stupid system. It disobeys its own creator now.
You, Howard have spent too much time around Duo. His own suit is jamming our computers. It's hiding him. Which can only mean that it doesn't want him found. Which means he'll show up. Try not to worry Howard. No matter how much I hate that system, it would not permit Duo to come to harm. I programmed his protection into its core sub-routines.
I'll inform you if he shows up. The screen went blank leaving Howard fidgeting on his bed, more worried than before.
Zechs glanced up from his screen as the base's alarms sounded, making him wish that the use of ear protectors was not just confined to the shooting range. Wincing at the volume he listened to the warnings, snapping out of his chair as his ringing ears caught the words 'intruder on base'.
Swearing to himself he pulled his handgun and charged out of his office, knowing that his first duty was to protect the valuable suits stored in their underground hanger.
He sprinted down the corridor, uniform jacket and ID firmly in place, rushing past other officers and security personnel that were already starting to sweep the base. He skidded in to an open elevator, pounding on the button for the hanger bay followed closely by his personal access code. Nothing could be permitted to damage the Gundams, especially his Tallgeese. He'd lost too many suits in the past to lose yet another.
The door hissed open, reveiling the well-lit massive room and a scene he did not want to see.
Three soldiers, guns raised and facing a black clad figure, who was dripping water on to the hanger's slick metal floor.
A black figure that had their back turned to the weapons and was standing at the feet of the very Gundam that had always sent a shiver along Zechs' spine when ever he was near it, convinced it was watching him. He ran over to them, gun held down at his side with the safety clicked on. Somehow he doubted that the bedraggled figure was much of a threat.
"Put up your hands and turn around slowly!" One of the soldiers barked, clearly agitated. Zechs' frowned as he got closer. Three new recruits, all green, facing a single person. This was bad. The figure didn't respond to the orders and instead continued to stand, staring up at the hulking black Gundam.
"Put your hands up or I will shot." The guard barked again, glancing to his left as Zechs halted beside him. The blond major scowled at the threat, shaking his head to stop them from going through with it. All three guards nodded obediently but did not lower their guns. The figure moved slightly, staring down at something in his hands.
"Would you? Have you ever killed before Private?" The figure asked softly, making the soldier in question jump and swallow. Zechs' sighed as he realised that the young man had not. He raised his own gun.
"Perhaps the Private has not killed, but I have. I can promise you that I will kill you if I decide it necessary." Zechs snapped; thumbing off the gun's safety as the figure slowly turned.
The first thing he noticed was that the figure held a gun in a relaxed, unthreatening position, not aimed at anyone. The second thing was the braid that hung over the thin, wet shoulder of a boy he knew well.
"Drop the gun!" The private shouted, finger tightening on the trigger, hands shaking. Violet eyes looked up from the gun, up to the man challenging him, to the face only slightly older than his own. "Drop it now or I'll shoot."
"Please…please kill me." The figure whispered, eyes dropping again, braced ready for the shot. The Private gasped at the emotionless voice, staring in shock as the boy submitted to his death without fear.
"Don't shoot. He's a Gundam pilot." Zechs murmured so softly that Duo had no chance of hearing before clicking the gun's safety back on and taking a hesitant step forward. "Duo, why did you come here? The Gundam pilots are not needed now."
Duo screamed as his knees buckled. That word. That word meant so much…
"So what make's our suit so good." He asked looking up at the towering suit as he stood at its feet beside the taller form of his saviour from poverty. G smiled.
"Gundanium my dear boy. That suit is all but indestructible."
"A Gundam is attacking the base, all units mobilise."
"Ahh, look it scythe, their sendin' me some toys ta play with."
Controls blinked even as a voice in his mind agreed, wings embracing him tightly as the glowing scythe arched towards the enemy and destroyed them all.
"Argggg! It's a GUNDAM!!!"
"Nooooo, we can't hold off a Gundaaaaaaa."
"Sir, the Gundam is attacking the control- aaaaaaaaa."
(End flash back)
Zechs froze as the boy before him released a tormented scream, cradling his head in his hands, gun still clamped in one hand as he went down to his knees. The sound pierced past the fading alarms and made the three watching soldiers tremble. Zechs saw the boy's muscles spasm uncontrolled, silently praying that the gun's safety was on as he grabbed hold of the shocked Private's shoulder.
"Tell Lady Une that the intruder has been located and to shut off that racket. Get Sally Po and G down here on the double, hopefully with some sedatives." Zechs snapped, hurrying the man away with a shove before turning back toward the recovering child, shivering when he caught a glimpse of the pain in those usually bright violet eyes.
He had been aware that Duo had been the one unable to cope with what had happened in the past but this misery…This was more than he'd ever seen someone suffer before.
He waved the other soldiers back who we're still in awe of the fact that one of their heroes could be so young and so distressed. Zechs steadied himself, praying that reinforcements would be here soon before clearing his throat.
"Duo, can you put down the gun please." He asked softly, offering the boy a reassuring smile that he would not be hurt.
Duo knelt on the steel floor, recovering from the waves of pain and looked down at the gun in his hands, settled in his lap.
"I remembered lots when I picked this up Zechs', but I didn't let myself remember it 'til I was comin' here." Duo muttered, tears running unheeded down his face, mixing with the rainwater that ran from his fringe that was plastered against his pale skin. Zechs nodded softly.
"That's good Duo. But could you just set it down. I swear to you that you can have it back, but lets just set it down now." He said, trying to keep his voice neutral despite the concern that he was feeling.
Duo, the god of Death had been a menace, he had been responsible for massive amounts of death and destruction during Oz wars. To see him sobbing was disturbing.
Duo's fingers stroked over the guns barrel, a slight smile working its way to his blue tinged lips, a smile so full of pain that it made Zechs' heart twitch.
"This gun. Had it so long, used it so much…How old were you Zechs, when ya killed another person for the first time?" Duo asked, glancing up at the watching pilot. Zechs' swallowed.
"Sixteen, an intruder in Treize's hanger bay." Zechs answered softly, blinking the sight out of his mind.
"Mmm. Solo said that ya always remember the first one the best. I was nine, in an Oz jail. Someone was tryin' ta rape me. I shot him, with his own gun…with this gun." He stroked the handle lovingly, while Zechs fought the anger at such behaviour of one of his fellows against a child.
"I killed every soldier I could find before runnin'. That was the night that I split." Zechs cringed.
He had seen Duo's file, both the one that Oz had made up from observation and later, the one in the Preventers database. It held little of the boys past but his psychological profile had made Zechs' skin crawl. Shinigama was quite frankly damn scary, able to do things no mortal person should be able to. Only the scientists knew how and they were keeping quiet.
"Duo, the gun please." Zechs repeated, gesturing to the weapon. Duo didn't look at him.
"It's got three hundred and thirty five groves cut in its grip. One for every life it's taken." Duo murmured, fingers running over the carvings, the tally made in the metal. "'Cept one mark. I remembered that too, when I saw it. Heero, he changed the bullets to blanks. Stopped me…" He trailed off and Zechs' eyes widened when he realised what Duo had tried to do, what had lead to them all having their memories blocked.
"Duo, please don't do that. There's no reason to…"
"To die Zechs'? Or to live. I have killed so many people. I can hear them screaming when I close my eyes and I don't wanna hear it anymore." Duo gripped the gun, snapping a bullet in to the chamber in a practised move that even Zechs could not equal and thumbed the safety off.
"Duo. I know what its like. I too have killed. I too have blood on my hands and too many deaths on my soul. But…"
"Just deaths on your soul Zechs'? Death is my soul! Well, Heero ain't here now. Heero isn't even Heero, he's Odin and they all think that I'm mental. But I know the truth!" Duo shouted angrily, raising the gun and placing the muzzle against his temple, tears spilling at a faster rate down his face.
Violet eyes met ice blue in pleading, asking for understanding.
"This is how all this shit started. Me tryin' ta shoot myself. Or at least it got serious then, I stopped eatin' and sleepin' first." Duo frowned, skin under the gun whitening at the force of the touch, Duo's hand shaking as his finger tightened on the trigger.
"You can't Duo." Zechs begged, wanting desperately to snatch the gun from the terrified grasp and slap some sense into the boy yet he didn't dare to move encase it made Duo's unsteady hand tighten on the trigger anymore. "We can fix the blocks. You can forget again."
"And live without the truth? No Zechs. Solo used ta say that lies hurt people more than the truth. The lies end here." He closed his eyes, taking a deep, steadying breath. "May God forgive me for what I have done and have mercy on my soul." He prayed, finger tightening on the trigger until it hit the base of the bullet, the firing bolt moving to strike the gun powder to start the process of firing the gun.
The hanger echoed with frozen silence, the young soldier's eyes clamped shut to avoid seeing the impact, Zechs holding his breath, the elevator doors slowly opening.
Zechs sighed, striding forward to the boy whose eyes were suddenly wide open and staring at the offending weapon.
"Yuy, I fucking hate you. I shoulda shot ya when I had a chance!" He screamed, throwing the gun at the approaching pilot as he pulled his knife from his boot, blade glinting in the over heads, moving for an unprotected wrist. "I'm gonna do this no matter what!" He growled, blade touching weak skin just as a hand descended and snatched the knife away from the shock-weakened grasp.
"Oh no you don't." Zechs snarled, chucking the lethal looking knife away and pinning the boy's arms down to his sides.
"Damn it Zechs, let me go. I don' wanna remember anymore." Duo struggled and kicked but the twenty five-year-olds larger weight easily won out and Duo found himself on his back, hands pinned under Zechs'.
Footsteps charged over toward the struggling pair and Zechs felt himself losing ground as Duo's small but very strong muscles fought back with a wave of adrenaline. Zechs was pushed away from the sobbing teenager just as another form took his place. Distantly, as he landed in a very undignified position on his butt, he realised that Sally and G had finally arrived.
Duo stared up at the form over him, wondering for a second why Wufei's guardian was in a hanger in the Preventers base before he was crushed in to a tight hug. Tear streaked face pressed into Sally's shoulder he finally realised what he had been missing whenever he'd wanted comfort when he was with Howard.
Sally, like Quatre had a sixth sense for when words were utterly useless and a hug was required. He'd missed her without even realising.
Her hand stroked the skin on the back of his neck in slow circles while her other circled him, holding him against her until his arms nervously returned the embrace.
"Oh Duo, I thought we worked this out after that stretch of self starvation, hmm?" Sally breathed into his ear, hand running up his side to press against the ribs that stuck out like tree branches. "Which I see you're also doing again." She tutted softly, rocking him until his breath was slowing from the near hyperventilating state that he had reached. "You're drenched too. You should be glad Heero isn't here."
"Heero isn't Heero, he's Odin." Duo whispered, looking up at her sadly. "Sally, I don't want to keep…"
"Shhh, I know, but we'll think of something better than suicide okay." Sally hushed him, turning to look up at G who was peering curiously down at the form of his pilot, too thin, shaking with cold, stress and pain. He smiled when he noticed Duo's puzzled gaze.
"Yes Duo, I survived." He muttered, helping the boy to stand as Sally took Zechs' offered hand, both Preventers keeping a close watch on Duo to ensure that he did not try anything, the sedative in Sally's pocket ready for use. Duo offered his professor a weak and very watery smile before all but falling in to the larger mans embrace.
"Good. Things are bad enough without me seein' ghosts too." Duo muttered, electing a chuckle out of G before the arm around him tightened, stopping him from pulling back. He leaned down next to Duo's slightly worried face, wearing a reassuring smile.
"Why did you come here?" He asked, ignoring the puzzled glances that Sally and Zechs sent him. Duo straightened, pulling away roughly, his head tilting to one side thoughtfully.
"The nightmares. My brother needed me. The shadows are comin'." Duo said as though it were the most logical explanation in the world. Zechs' eyes widened.
"What?!" He snapped only to here G chuckle, taking careful hold of Duo's hand to lead him up to the suit boarding walkway.
"Looks as though Scythe needs to work on his dream communication skills." He offered before moving Duo away, Sally following a step behind, not letting the suicidal and very unwell child out of her sight. G turned to look over his shoulder at the startled blond pilot. "Zechs, please inform Howard that Duo is here, then tell my colleagues what has occurred to Duo. Thank you." The three of them left the pilot of Tallgeese standing there in silent confusion for a minute before he marched off to complete his task.
Duo stood outside the sealed cockpit, hand brushing tenderly against his Gundams chest armour, ignoring the strange glances of the engineers and security personnel, sceptical that this small boy they were watching truly was one of the hero's of two wars.
None of the engineers save those that had once worked aboard Peacemillion dared to work on Deathscyth and most walked the long way, along the outside of the hanger to avoid going close to the hulking figure of the grim reaper.
The stories that surrounded the suit and how much destruction it had caused had taken on a supernatural element, only boosted by the fact that the Gundams glowing eyes never faded in to stand by and that no engineer save for the original builders had ever been in its cockpit.
G in fact had encouraged the rumours gladly, adding the stories of how many pilots had died while test piloting the suit. It had a worse reputation than Wing Zero. So it disturbed them to see the thin teenager caress the demon suits armour so lovingly, as though the boy had missed it desperately.
Duo stepped back suddenly, turning toward the sealed hatch entrance to the cockpit.
"'Scythe, open." He said clearly, voice echoing in the curious silence.
A hiss of releasing hydraulics made the observes jump as the boarding ramp lowered and locked in position, the inner shielding for the pilot slipping away in to the chest to reveal a cockpit space far larger than any other suit in existence.
The screens and controls within it flickered to life and a steady hum of a generator starting pulsed through the hanger floor. The screens cast an eerie light within the dark hatch, revealing the out line of a large chair and various terminals.
Duo paused before carefully stepping onto the ramp and moving forward across the thirty-foot drop into the only home he had ever truly known. Sally heard a nervous swallow from G as he bowed to the massive Gundam, those green eyes never leaving the scientist.
"With your permission." G muttered, feeling idiotic but not wanting to take the chance.
He stepped up on to the ramp, muscles braced ready to lunge back to the safety of the boarding platform if the ramp suddenly moved. When nothing happened he followed Duo into the cockpit, watching as the boy carefully perched on the edge of his pilots chair, pulling the harness over his shoulders and buckling it before relaxing back in to the worn padding, hands slipping onto controls.
G took a seat on the cockpit floor in front of the chair, wincing as old joints complained while the hatch hissed closed behind him. The large space suddenly went very dark.
'Duo….remember." A voice commanded.
G's eyes snapped open at the sound, watching as his pilot tensed, jerking slightly in the restraints as memories poured back in to him. He swore mentally to himself, eyeing the screens around him.
The system had evolved to allow for audible speech, just another of hundreds of mysterious evolutions that had come from the system.
'Creator?' The voice called, sending a shiver along G's spine.
"Yes Scythe?" He asked, trying desperately to remain calm even as just what the scythe system could do to him flashed through his mind.
'Enemies come from outer system, Oz's hidden base. They come in powerful suits to destroy colonies. The pilots must be awakened.'
"It will be done Scythe." G whispered, looking at the screen that blinked alive with the scanner display of the approaching army, still days out of normal scanner range.
Deathscythes scanners were years ahead of any other detecting equipment available and G had never thought of improving the Preventers own detection systems to match it. Duo's body trembled violently as his eyes widened.
'I had to force the blocks. Painful. Confusing. My brother is suffering. Has been for many years. Help him.' G swallowed again at the suit's order, unsure of how to help the young boy in front of him.
"How?" He whispered, leaning over to stroke the wet fringe from Duo's face in an effort to calm the boy.
'I will help him…help him to reach peace…maintain it. So that he will be free. He remembers.' The voice softened as Duo's shaking slowed, his breath coming in ragged gasps. 'Sleep to understand, pilots there to comfort him when he wakes.' G nodded obediently, startled when the hatch hissed open again.
He stepped forward, unbuckling the weakly blinking teenager and pulling him to his feet, leading him down the ramp and on to the boarding platform over to the worried looking Sally.
Behind him it hissed closed again, giving the watching engineers more material for rumours. Abdul was standing at Sally's side and instantly stepped forward to lift the falling Duo off of his feet, balancing his shaking form in his arms as Sally carefully sedated him.
Abdul smiled tenderly down at his wife before following her, carrying the boy and leaving G to his quiet contemplation of his own creation.
Howard sighed, bracing himself as he stepped out of Rashid's people carrier, opening the back door to let the four nervous boys out.
Their young eyes were locked on the huge house, the Peacecraft palace, all dying to ask questions but knowing that they would get no answers. They were here for Duo, that was all that they knew.
A young woman, about their own age stood at the steps, surprising them all. Her face after all was easy to recognise although in jeans and a T-shirt it was hard to recognise the former Queen of the world.
She moved toward them, shaking Howard's hand as though she knew him well, pausing to whisper something to him that lightened the frown he was wearing before returning Rashid's bow. She turned her smiling blue eyes on them, looking the four boy's over, gaze lingering slightly on Odin before she gestured them to follow her inside.
The house was massive, traditionally decorated with every wall baring tapestries and portraits, thick carpets richly coloured under their feet. She led them through countless corridors, down a set of steps and over to a relatively plain wall. She chuckled at the confused but respectfully silent boys before touching her palm against one of the wall paper patterns.
A green light ran over her palm, and a beep echoed in the silence as the wall hissed open, revealing a large lift beyond. She stepped in to it, watching as the two men and four teens followed, letting the door hiss closed again.
"It's nice to see all of you again. We can speak now. Unfortunately the halls are so frequently used that it is impossible to keep them free of bugs, but the lower floors though are quite safe." She said, laughing tenderly as Quatre blinked at her.
"See…see us again. Pardon me your Highness, but have we met?" The Arabian asked, watching her eyes dance again over their features, pausing on the bruises marring Wufei's skin.
"Call me Relena please, and yes, we know each other well." The lift hummed to life, shaking softly at its breaks were released and it moved down in to the hidden base, still one of the centres of the Preventers network, under the Peacecraft family home. "There is little point in explaining. In a second, everything will be clear."
The lift came to a controlled stop, the doors hissing open once again to reveal a metal corridor, undecorated and quite sterile, littered with doors. Relena stepped out and moved to the nearest, keying it open and gesturing them inside, the boys obeying immediately. Relena's arm stopped Rashid and Howard from following.
Behind Odin the door slid closed, leaving the four of them in a barely lit room, its walls lost to the shadows, its floor carpeted.
"What the hell is going on here?" Trowa growled, looking around himself and exchanging puzzled glances with the others. Over heads flashed on, so bright that they were blinding, the boys covering their eyes desperately to stop the burning.
Hands grabbed them from behind, pulling each one against another body, bigger and stronger than they themselves were.
Words, non-sense sentences, numbers and letters were spoken in four ears and the hands released their captives.
Four screams echoed in the enclosed area as four forms fell to the floor, pain driving them in to unconsciousness. The blocks were broken…
Running in rivers around him, lapping at his feet as he stood upon the only dry ground surrounded by an ocean of crimson.
The single island in a sea of Death.
The bloods edge advanced still more, dark forms moving under its surface, approaching. Hands clutched at his legs and pulled him in to the bottomless liquid, dragging him beneath the surface, the weight of the corpses that surrounded him stopping his pitiful struggles.
Something within him knew that all of this was just a dream, just a nightmare that he would soon awaken from. Yet his chest burned with the need for fresh air, that which was still trapped in his lungs useless to him, stagnating within his organs.
He needed to breathe.
Needed it so much to stop the pain. His mouth opened, releasing the used air, forming bubbles before drawing a deep involuntary gasp. A lung-full of blood charged in to him, pushing its way through his airway.
He was drowning. And what was worse were the screams that echoed in the water around him from the bodies that stopped him from surfacing.
The voices that pleaded for him to stop, to spare them. Figures that fell to his bullets, necks that broke at his hands, veins that opened at his command. The blood that poured from fatal wounds, moans of pain, yells of surprise and the hateful gaze of one whose life has been stolen.
He writhed in the crimson fluid, choking and swallowing more, its foul taste polluting him mouth.
And above it all was one accusation, one question with no answer, one that plagued his soul, tormenting him for years.
For peace? No. He had no peace. He had fought for it, killed for it but had never known it. A foreign thing not intended for himself. He was the God of Death, the Great Destroyer, he could never know the peace he had won. All he could do was kill.
All he could do was die.
His peace would come only at his own destruction.
The red blood was fading to blackness. His body screamed for air, his struggles growing weaker. He wanted it to stop! He wanted to die!
The ocean around him faded, the hands holding him were relaxed.
Wings wrapped around his shaking form. Long claws stroked his tense back muscles as he coughed, watching the blood drain from his lungs before drawing a deep breath of chilled air. His naked body shivered slightly at the temperature.
Spluttering, Duo stood, swaying until the stronger arms encased him, rubbing at his cold skin while offering the warmth of the larger body under the black cloak to the boy.
'Beautiful Other, do not give in. You have a reason to live, an enemy to fight.' The voice purred, green eyes burning in to violet before the haze that had entrapped him within the dream cleared around him, releasing him from his mental torture and back in to real world.
He sat up; sweat dripping from his forehead, sticking his fringe to his pale and drawn face. Coughing slightly he sat up only to find that he couldn't.
His arms and legs were strapped down to the bed by thick nylon straps that were done up under the mattress and out of his direct sight.
His hands were secured separately, with padded cuffs locked to the safety rail of the hospital bed. His hair was undone from its braid and instead pulled back into a simple ponytail, a thin blanket tucked around his otherwise naked form.
The room he sat in was warm but bare of most furnishings, two chairs sat on the beds right side with a chest of draws to the left. Dimly he noted that the room lacked the customary bedside lamp and water flask, the lights low so that he could sleep more easily.
He sighed, squirming slightly under his bonds, trying to get comfortable and failing miserably. The drugs that had given him the passage to sleep were flowing quickly from his system, leaving him alone with no way to rest again.
He felt as though he had not slept at all, his eyes unfocused with the beginnings of insomnia, a thing he'd suffered with for years. The nightmares wouldn't let him have any rest at all.
He sat up as much as he could, struggling to see over the safety rail as the door creaked, a line of light piercing the darkened room.
A blond head ducked in, aqua eyes nervously scanning the room before coming to rest on Duo's slim form, meeting the violet gaze. Duo offered the blond a casual smile, winking at the concern that appeared on his friend's face.
"Hey Que. I'd get up, but ya know how it is." He tugged on the straps that held him down, lips tugging into a weary grin. "Sal' just loves seein' me all tied up." Quatre giggled nervously before the door was pulled from his slim fingers and thrust open, three other, larger forms pushing passed the Arabian and into the small room.
"Ah, he must be well if his sense of humour is as sick as ever. Maxwell, you should be glad Abdul didn't hear that." Wufei muttered, dropping against the far wall and leaning there, arms folded over his chest.
"Hey Wu, guys." Duo murmured, watching intently as his best friend took one of the chairs at his bedside, Trowa taking the other while Quatre perched on the end of the bed, hands running under the sheet to rub some feeling back into Duo's feet. Duo smiled into cobalt eyes, the expression forced and his once bright eyes dark. "Konicha wa Odin." He whispered, getting a tender smile out off the older boy who leaned forward to stroke the chestnut strands from Duo's eyes.
"Still getting my name wrong Baka? It's Heero." Violet eyes lit up slightly, no where near there normal flare but it was better that the cold, expressionless colour they'd been taking on.
"Really? You guys remembered?! That's so cool!" Duo yelled, tugging at his restraints in an attempt for freedom, so that he could hug his friends. The straps though didn't budge. Heero pushed a hand on to his chest, pressing him back on to the mattress before placing a finger on Duo's lips.
"Shh, if Sally catches us in here we're dead, you're not allowed visitors until she clears you." Heero explained softly, thumb stroking the heart shaped face as a poor substitute for a full-bodied hug. The violet eyes darkened again at the news but Duo kept his smile firmly in place.
"So you guys remember?" He repeated, electing another soft chuckle from Quatre, and a faint smile from the painfully serious face of Trowa. Duo knew he would miss seeing him smile so easily.
"Yes, Maxwell, we do. I also remember how I got these bruises." Wufei drawled, advancing on the small form in the bed, smirking evilly as Duo swallowed, trying to back away and not getting very far.
"Um, come on, Wu, hurting someone whose tied down had gotta be dishonourary." Duo pleaded, glancing around for some help only to receive three answering smirks. Wufei leaned over the bed, hands raised, ready for the attack while Duo braced himself. The hands descended, only to bring something possibly worse than pain. "Nah, Wu, get offa me, ticklings not permitted! Ah, help! Wu please, I need ta pee and ya…ha…ain't helpin'."
Wufei backed off, black eyes glimmering happily at the true laughter that none of them had truly heard in a long time. The grin on Duo face however was short lived and faded back in to a false smile that barely contained he pain that raged in Duo's mind.
"I'm impressed Maxwell, you took me down. Even with only half my fighting ability not blocked it was still impressive. Seems that you were really listening to me after all." Wufei muttered, grinning as he slumped back against the wall. Duo offered him a weak smile.
"Thanks 'Fei. I'm sorry I had to hurt you guys but it was real important that I get here." Duo apologised, shifting again under the straps, wincing at being unable to get up in order to relieve himself. Heero's hand returned to his bare shoulder, squeezing in comfort as cold eyes met his.
"We know Duo, and we're sorry for not believing you. You have never lied to us." Heero turned his gaze to Trowa, glaring at the silent soldier until he too spoke.
"Sorry." The pilot of Heavyarms added, eyes shadowed in regret. Duo smirked at him, shrugging under the straps as best he could.
"Hey, no worries guys, if I'd a been you, I'd a thought I was insane too." Duo offered, squirming as Quatre's fingers found a ticklish spot on the sole of his foot. Heero chuckled deeply, exchanging looks with the other three pilots.
"You still don't make any sense Maxwell and…I wish you could have remembered everything in a nicer way. Ours only hurt for a second, you've been in pain for days. That was unjust." Wufei growled, glaring toward the partially opened door, targeting those who caused his anger that were currently scattered around the base. Quatre cleared his throat in the silence that followed that statement, breaking the tension.
"So, um, how are you feeling now Duo?" The blond asked, releasing the undefended feet and shifting forward to have a better look at Duo's pale face, trying desperately to keep his eyes away from the dark bruise on the younger boy's temple.
The American smiled widely.
"Me, oh, hey man I'm good. Just gotta pee like ya can't believe, think one of ya can let me up." Duo chirped, shifting again under the sheets, biting his lip in mock concentration. Quatre returned the smile, but with much more emotion behind it, reaching around the bed to begin to release his friend only to have Heero's hand stop him.
"No." The perfect soldier snapped, shaking his head to reinforce the statement before releasing the thin wristed Arabian. Duo frowned at him.
"Why not man? I gotta go." Heero scowled down at his best friend, fingers reaching out to lightly brush against the bruise on Duo's temple. "You tried to hurt yourself again, that's why Sally restrained you." Duo's violet eyes darkened dangerously, lip rising to reveal sharp white teeth.
"Yeah. I remember, ya changed the bullets in my gun AGAIN! Gonna do 'at on missions too? I'm gonna be shooting Ozzies with blanks or we could try usin' paint balls, 'at might work." Duo snarled, watching as Heero's face drew serious and unemotional, the hint of a smile dying on his face.
"I'm not going to let you commit suicide Duo, you're my friend, a member of our family and I'm damned if I'll let another die for no reason. We'll deal with any problem you have but you have to trust us. You have to keep living." Heero ordered, folding his arms angrily over his chest. Duo glared up at him, fingers digging into the sheets under him.
"Keep livin', for the mission Yuy? You're not one to advise me not ta self-destruct, or you frightened I might succeed where you didn't?!" Duos growled, staring up at the cobalt eyes that suddenly softened, feeling a hand gently take hold of his.
"God, yes Duo, I'm terrified that you'll manage it. We need you Duo, you kept us sane during the wars, reminded us why we were fighting, kept us on our path to peace. But now it's you that's lost the way and we're going to help you find it again." Heero whispered, stroking the smaller digits gently in his hand while Quatre clasped Duo's left hand within both of his, trying to reassure the American that they were there for him, reluctant to let go.
Violet eyes studied the wall for a minute, white teeth worrying his bottom lip. When he turned back to Heero his eyes were glistening with restrained tears, his hands trembling in their grasp.
"Ya don't know what it's like Heero. The blood, the screaming, the…the emptiness. It hurts and I can't sleep no more. Every time I eat I chuck it back up again. I…I just wan' it all ta stop but it don't." He paused, swallowing hard then looked into the cobalt gaze, the mask gone from his features, his smile fallen and his eyes filled with pain and torment. Heero winced at the desperation he saw there. "I gotta get this last enemy Heero, protect their peace one more time 'fore I collect my own." Heero closed his eyes softly, hand tightening over Duo's.
"I'm not going to let you die." He murmured, voice determined, jaw set for the argument he was sure was to come. When he looked again Duo was smiling, weakly, but smiling all the same.
"Yeah, He-man, now let me up, I'm too old ta be wettin' the bed." He joked, getting only a serious look in answer, stubbornness burnt in to Japanese features.
"No, Duo. Not until Sally okay's it." He answered, glancing at Wufei who had straightened and moved toward the door.
"I'll go retrieve her." He muttered before moving away, leaving the strained scene gladly. Duo watched him leave and shifted again, knowing that he couldn't last that long. He tested his bonds again.
Sally knew his skills for escape well and he had no doubt that G had had a hand in the set up of the restraints, making sure that his small hands and large wrists would not give him the opportunity from freedom yet again. The straps held against his testing tugs and Heero grinned faintly down at him.
"Not even you can get out of those Duo Maxwell." He muttered, releasing the younger boy's hand and moving it to ruffle the sweaty fringe. Duo looked up at him, manic smile tugging at his lips as his eyes fluttered closed, relaxing in to the blackness.
"Maybe Duo Maxwell can't." He whispered, feeling the stroke of soft black feathers over his naked mental image, felt the arms encircle him as the hooded figure offered him it's strength. "But Shinigama can." Eyes flicked open and the normally violet eyes held a burning green light within the near black irises.
Heero involuntarily took a step back, noting that Quatre went one further, sprinting around the bed to their side, hand pressed against his chest as though in pain, taking shelter between the larger forms of Heero and Trowa.
Metal groaned in compliant, the strap clasps slowly giving way under a force that they had never been made to take, the nylon furling as its strands were pulled away.
The arm restraints, padded as they were, squealed in defeat as the safety rail, not they themselves gave way under the exerted strength, the metal bars buckling and snapping at their weldings.
The chest strap buckles shattered and suddenly the lithe American was sitting upright with his hands free. He reached for the leg strap and tugged it away, undoing each of the wrist restraints and dropping both them and the safety rail that they were still connected to on to the floor before kicking the sheets off and standing.
Total unashamed of his naked body he walked straight past the three gapping soldiers and into the small closet bathroom, which he realised lacked a door. Shrugging, unconcerned about such minor problems, he made use of the steel toilet, humming softly to himself while he wore a smile too wide to be normal, his eyes burning with an edge of insanity as he listened to the conversation behind him.
"Shit." Trowa, never one (with all his memories) for long speeches commented, staring at the bed that's restraints could have easily held down the massive Rashid.
Quatre whimpered to himself, still clutching his chest, face tinted slightly grey with worry. Trowa wrapped an arm around his shoulders for support before turning accusingly at the rapidly blinking Heero.
"And you forgot to mention this why?"
Heero swallowed, turning to the taller boy, forcing his jaw closed again.
"He…Never, never like this. Shinigama took his pain, gave him courage. It…He never showed this kind of strength." Heero stammered, rubbing at his face with callused hands. Quatre took a deep calming breath before looking up into his best friends emerald eyes.
"May Allah help us." He said simply, the hand over his heart tightening as he gripped his shirt. Numbly the other two nodded, turning to the door as it was pushed open.
Sally entered, Wufei, G and Abdul a few steps behind and surveyed the empty bed with the safety bars torn right off and the straps lying dejectedly in piles on the tiled floor. Her gaze shifted to where Duo was standing, grin firmly in place but the green glow fading as he released his link with the Scythe system.
"Couldn't hold it Duo?" She asked, cocking an eyebrow at him, eyes running over his thin under weight body, lean muscles strong but no where near strong enough to do the damage that the bed had sustained. He did not attempt to cover himself, more than comfortable with his own form, years of living on the streets having stripped him of any modesty.
"When ya gotta go, ya gotta go." Duo answered, strolling across the room and leaning against the wall, arms folded over his chest, watching as both G and Abdul looked over the broken safety rails. The scientist glanced back up at his pilot, face questioning.
"And how, my dear boy, did you manage this?" He asked, gesturing to the torn and warped steel bar. Duo shrugged.
"Eatin' too much spinach?" Duo offered, electing a sigh from the scientist and a faint grin from Sally. Abdul just stared at him like he was insane, backing off to Sally's side to protect his wife while Wufei joined the other four pilots.
The door opened again and Relena charged in, still dressed in the casual outfit that she wore commonly around the compound, knowing that it would never reach the tabloids.
"I'm sorry if I'm late but I just heard that Duo was…" She trailed off, skidding to a halt beside Quatre. Her eyes widen as she glanced the teenage boy in front of her up and down, gaze lingering slightly before returning to his face, blushing slightly as she noticed his confident smirk, a look that didn't reach his still and lifeless eyes.
He was wearing his mask. This was far from the first time that she had seen the youngest of the pilots scantily clad or bare of everything save his hair that now cascaded around his body in a halo.
Often when staying with the boys in safe houses she'd had the life scared out of her when passing him in the corridor, fresh from the shower, wearing a single towel that was wrapped around his dripping hair.
He had always just winked and kept going. At first she'd been utterly scandalised until Quatre had quietly explain that Duo had never been taught to be modest as most children had. Living on the streets and then in an orphanage did not really allow for privacy. Used to the sight she winked at him.
"Out of uniform again Maxwell?" She asked, struggling to keep the smile from her face as Duo cocked his head and blinked at her.
"Nah." He answered after a pause. "This is the best uniform I got. God gave it ta me, don't need ta press it, washes at low temps, mends itself and I'll never grow outa it." She laughed at him, watching his gaze fall on Sally. "'Less ya want me ta put on a show for Uny, can I have my clothes back?"
Sally nodded, moving over to the chest of draws and pulling out the now dry black pants and shirt, along with a pair of tie dyed boxers, throwing them to him easily before propping herself on a chair, running critical eyes over the ruined bed. She glanced up at G, face darkening.
"I think we could all do with an explanation of this G, especially Duo as I doubt that he fully understands what is happening to him." She said, voice dangerously low. The older man nodded softly.
"We can talk in the lounge while we eat, but we have little time. The enemy will be here soon and we need to prepare, they are going to be hard to beat."
Everyone nodded obediently, eyes glancing at the now dressed youngest person in the room, concern clear as they noticed his grimace and the fingers that ran over his brow, as though suffering from a painful headache. G lead them out, hand on Duo's shoulder, guiding him though unfamiliar corridors, not noticing as Quatre dragged Heero away from the main group.
"What?" the pilot of Wing Zero snapped, glaring at the boy, his expression easing when he noticed the hand clutched over the blonde's heart. Aqua eyes locked with his, unshed tears in their depth.
"Something is very wrong with him Heero, something that's slowly eating at him. He's finding it harder to face the world without Shinigami's support and…Heero I felt his pain…His misery. I think that unless another full cure presents itself that…that mercy should be used." Quatre whispered, a single tear trickling down his face. Heero raised an eyebrow.
"Mercy?" He asked.
"That we should let him die. Heero, it's driving him insane. His shields are normally so strong, trying to stop me from feeling the pain, a shield much like his mask. But Heero, when he…when he broke the restraints I felt it. Felt what Shinigami's is protecting him from. It was like touching void. It was terrible and it's hurting him. He is in agony."
Heero paused, looking at the Arabian hard before nodding sharply in understanding, marching away to catch up with the group, leaving the blond to trail behind.
Sally watched Duo out of the corner of her eye, watching his fork as it pushed his dinner around the ceramic plate.
He had eaten little of the meal that Relena's own chefs had provided. His violet eyes seemed to be focused beyond the plate, seeing through it to something that appeared to interest him.
Lost, as he was, within his own thoughts, he failed to notice that his facial expression had fallen, traditional grin replaced by a grimace of pain, skin pale under his tan. The boy lacked the life that he used to carry with him so easily, the joking air that often brightened a room was gone, falling to a pain that she could not ease.
It hurt seeing him in such a state and she knew she was far from alone in that. She set down her own knife and fork, glancing around the table that now seated nine, with the five pilots, herself, Une, Zechs and G.
All but Duo sat with an empty plate in front of them, Zechs glancing every now and then down the table to the small American that sat between Heero and Wufei. Une had deemed the problem that they were here to discuss as Preventers business only and had chased away any one that she didn't want in the room personally, sending away both Rashid and Howard with a single scowl. Sally swallowed, wincing at the tension in the room before raising her eyebrow at G.
"I believe we're ready for you explanation of the occurrences recently, Professor." She said, 'doctor' tone in her voice stopping any argument before it began. G nodded, setting down his fork as he pushed the plate forward, resting his hands on the table.
"The Scythe system." He answered simply, looking much older suddenly, as though the intense gazes aimed at him were ageing him. Heero frowned.
"Like Zero?" He asked, gaze flicking to Zechs who looked intrigued.
"Or Epyon?" The blond, Preventers captain added to his rivals comment. Professor G turned hard blue eyes on both pilots before chuckling, shaking his head in apparent amusement.
"Imitations. They are nothing compared to Scythe, full of meaningless images of possible futures and so confusing that they are hardly reliable." The scientist muttered, waving his hand in dismissal, choosing to ignore the glares aimed at him at the insult.
"Humour me G, what's the Scythe system?" Une snapped, folding her arms angrily at the casual attitude of the man currently responsible for the crisis that the Preventers were facing. G winced, eyes lowering to his clenched hands.
"It was our greatest accomplishment and our largest mistake." He whispered, shoulders slumping in defeat. "Zero…Epyon are just programs, regular but powerful computers capable of logical analysis and scenario prediction. Scythe was…is so much more. It wasn't just a computer, it is a mind. Artificial intelligence."
"But Duo's never seen the future with it." Heero growled, glancing at his friend for confirmation. Duo nodded faintly in agreement at the statement, hands playing with the end of his braid nervously. G smiled.
"No. Scythe was created for a different reason. Zero and Epyon were built to give any pilot an advantage in battle by predicting what would happen next and by boosting emotions to increase the pilots drive to fight. Scythe was not created to work on just anyone. It will not even obey its own creators anymore." His features darkened in anger at the idea of a machine falling to obey those that had first brought it into existence. Sally frowned, leaning forward to look at L2's professor, yes burning in to his own until he lowered his gaze in surrender.
"What does it do? What is it doing to Duo?" She demanded, noticing the boy wince at the mention of his name, noting the arm that Wufei had snaked around his shoulders for comfort. G cleared his throat, blinking his eyes.
"I was instructed by my commanders to install Scythe in to the Gundam I was building, only to find that my test pilots were not acceptable to it. See, the Scythe system is aware, had parts of a personality. What it required from a pilot was something to complete itself but also a mental out look that it could agree with. My test pilots were glory seekers, individuals that enjoyed seeing people suffer and die. On L2 I had little choice. Scythe activated whenever the weapons systems were brought on line and it destroyed the minds it didn't want. It left me with six mental vegetables and a pilot-less Gundam."
G picked up his glass of water, taking a sip as he paused to think, eyes shut as he remembered the scene from over two years ago, his dilemma plaguing him every second. Without a pilot he could do nothing, a decade of his life would have been wasted. He set the glass back down, looking down the table at Duo.
"Then this kid that had snuck away from L2 on my shuttle shows up and I give him a job as an assistant, fetching tools for engineers, making coffee, things like that around the hanger and suddenly Scythe sees a common mind."
"What do you mean?" Quatre asked, glancing toward Duo who smirked emotionlessly, finger nails digging in to his own palm. He giggled, hysteria in his tone before answering.
"Scythe was a creation for death. It was willing to kill but only for peace, only for someone who accepted death as a means to bring about Peace. And I not only accepted Death, I was Death. It followed in my wake and stole everything from me. Scythe knew that I would not get pleasure, power or satisfaction from killing, I did it only so that others didn't have to, so that they wouldn't have to suffer." The American explained, looking away so as to avoid the sorrowful look that the blond offered and the comforting smiles from around the table. Only G met his gaze with out contempt, only with a sad understanding.
"It called to Duo until he climbed into the cockpit after hours and activated the weapons system. Scythe linked with the shielding personality that you know as Shinigama, strengthening and completing it." G took a deep breath, not daring to look up, not wanting to see the deadly looks aimed his way. "J, when he helped me to create the system, theorised that it would create a perfect soldier, disciplined and dedicated like the machine that he was linked to. J was wrong. Scythe lacked what every machine lacks, imagination. It found it within Duo and in exchange it gave Duo a mental shield – Shinigama - that would protect him against the pains of war. It let him kill without regret, reminded him only of the greatness of the wars outcome. It…stopped him from fearing death so he could fight as though immortal."
"What is happening now to Duo?" Zechs asked, repeating Sally's earlier question, ice blue eyes burning at the idea of feeling what Duo had. G sighed, rubbing his hands over his wrinkled face.
"I can only guess. I think Scythe is evolving. It's gone outside of its programming in not allowing me to access it, and is defiantly fully self-aware but is very protective of its pilot. I believe that the link strengthening to a degree that allows Duo to access the Gundams strength is proof of that. The failing of the emotional shields though is strange, I cannot believe that Scythe would hurt Duo like that on purpose. Perhaps it is an error or something within Duo's own mind that is rebelling against the system I don't know and…I don't know how to help." He paused, considering informing them of what Scythe had told him, but decided against it.
They were worried enough. Sally stared at him for a second before nodding grudgingly.
"So, we just turn off the system and he'll be fine." Trowa commented, glancing at Duo when the American violently shook his head, arms wrapping around himself to hug his own body for security, eyes dark in fear.
G looked over at the pilot of Heavyarms, quelling look on his features as he stood and moved over to Duo, resting his wrinkled hands on the slim shoulders carefully.
"Fool." He snarled, glaring at Trowa angrily, hate clear in his tone. "Wasn't once enough, or are you determined to drive him insane?!"
Trowa's single visible eyebrow lifted in amazement at the angry question, confusion flooded his emerald eyes.
"Pardon?" He asked.
"You destroyed the original Deathscyth, deactivating the Scythe system that survived the explosion. You severed the link between it and Duo. The link was only severed for forty eight hours but that was long enough to nearly kill him." G replied, thumbs massaging the tense muscles that were making Duo's body shake in his seat.
The pilot of Deathscythe glanced up from the grain on the wooden table that he'd taken interest in and stood up, moving away from G and shoving his hands into his pockets and not looking at anyone.
"Look, this ain't getting' us no where, so lets just drop it yeah? We got bigger problems than my scrambled head. I'm gonna check 'Scythe…Deathscyth over, get him ready and stuff. Sooner we destroy the enemy the better, right?" He didn't wait for an answer and instead turned and strolled out of the door, slamming it slightly behind his lithe form.
Heero sighed deeply, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the dining table, letting his head rest in his hands. His fingers massaging his temples he watched as Zechs, Une and Sally left the room, leaving G and the four pilots alone.
The Professor swallowed nervously, falling back into his chair, body braced for the attacks that never came. Quatre was rubbing his chest, over the spot where his heart was, other hand clenched tightly as his aqua eyes glistened with controlled tears.
Trowa sat silently beside the blond, hand resting on the back of Quatre's seat to offer him comfort, his head was lowered, face shadowed from sight in shame. Wufei was glaring at the table, hands making tight fists, face intense in thought, running through his considerable knowledge for an answer that could help them, frustrated at his failure in helping a friend.
"What can we do?" Heero whispered, straightening from the support of his hands to glance around at his small family, gaze lingering on G. The older man shrugged.
"I know little of what is going on between them now. At first, Scythe just helped him to be confident in what he was doing, like a moral booster. The last report I got from Duo on the matter was strange to say the least." G stood again, moving over to the video display screen in the room's wall, set up for giving mission briefings or communications.
He pulled a disk from his lab coat pocket, slotting it into the drive before stabbing the play button. The screen flashed on, showing the inside of a darkened cockpit, Duo sitting in a chair too big for him, harnesses in place with his slim fingers resting on controls. His lips tightened into a wide smile, violet eyes gleaming happily in an expression that was being sorely missed. Only a hint of a frown showing of what, in another year, would become agony for him.
"Hey G, guess where I am! Give up? In space. Ya know, space is pretty borin' so I figured I'd make a report like ya keep buggin' me ta do." He paused and the smile dimmed slightly, eyes glaring away from the camera toward the side view screen, looking out in to void. "Come ta think 'bout it, I weren't gonna do this at first, I was gonna sleep, but I don't wanna have another nightmare in here, so I'll wait till I get to PeaceMillion. That's probably just a bein' in space thing right? Having nightmares and stuff, cause this one was…It sounds stupid. I've had 'em all my life but this one. I…I can still feel it ya know, like it was real."
He looked down at his hands absently, fingers rubbing over his palms as though trying to clean them without the aid of water. He glanced up at the camera, cheeks blushing slightly.
"Threw up to, but I cleaned that up. Ain't been all that hungry. Oh, and ya never said ya'd updated Scythe, nearly gave me a heart attack when he spoke. Crap man, it weren't funny." Another pause where Duo looked away again, fidgeting in his seat, hands tugging at the end of his braid. "G. I'm sorta worried. I…I ain't feelin' nothin' when I kill, not even out of Scythe. I don't feel guilty but I know I should. And past things are sorta faded, distant. I feel all the good stuff when I think of 'em, Solo and Helen and the Father, but…when I remember 'em dyin' it's like a blank. I dunno man, but its scary. I'm gonna talk ta Que and Fei 'bout it, might just be some kinda shock. Either that or I could be goin' insane. Anyway, call back yeah, hangin' with Hilde on L2 is pretty borin'. She got a boyfriend so I got nothin' much to do. See ya."
The pictures of Duo on the screen, grinning casually, faded away as the disk reached it end. G stared as the blank screen, collecting himself before he turned to face the watching pilots, wincing as he realised that Quatre was now being soundly hugged by Trowa, crying into the taller boys shoulder.
"I don't know what he sees in his nightmares, but I think they are the main cause of his pain, that and the lack of emotion. Scythe's shielding was never meant to reach the strength it has or over the length of time, but as damaging as it is, Duo is addicted to its presence in his mind." He frowned, shaking his head. "The fact that it was able to break the blocks that we installed goes to show its power. I don't think we can do anything about it, for know at least."
Wufei stood sharply, causing G to jump an take a reflexivity backward step away from the Chinese teenager.
"I think that Duo is right. We shall deal with this after the up coming battle. Duo will not kill himself while he has a duty to fulfil. I am going to check on Nataku. I recommend you all to the same." He offer Professor a small, farewell bow before striding from the room, normally straight tied back hair free of its pony tail and covering the bruised side of his face.
Trowa too stood, pulling Quatre gently up with him, steadying the smaller boy with a practised hand. He cleared his throat, green gaze meeting cobalt fearlessly.
"What he said." The European muttered before leading his best friend away, leaving Heero and G alone in the room. They sat together in silence for a good five minutes before Heero slowly stood, hands using the table as a lever to reach his feet as though too weary to make it on leg muscles alone. His eyes meet G's, filled with pain and a desperate need for understanding from the older man.
"Duo…Duo is strong. He lasted months suffering like this, wearing smiles to hide it from us. Apart from me the others only noticed when he had a gun to his head. I don't think, after everything, that he will last through this war." He stopped, eyes closing as his fingers tightened in to fists, knuckled white against tanned flesh.
"I will NOT let him die! Not after everything we've done. He deserves this peace more than anyone." Heero growled, eyes flashing open to glare at the scientist who simply nodded in agreement, moving passed the teenager to the door. He paused as it hissed open, looking over his shoulder at the seething boy.
"I am not your Professor." G said softly, eyes sparking. "But I will ask something of you. Duo is your mission now, every other duty is second to him. You are to keep him alive till the end of this in anyway you deem fit. Is this understood?"
G nearly sighed in relief as a smirk graced Heero's hard features.
"This is Red leader to Blue, you picking up defences, over?"
"Blue to Red, nothing but anti-debris lasers, they won't even touch us."
"Yellow to All, looks like easy pickings to me."
"Red to Yellow, copy that. I think its time to show these guys what happens when you go against Trieze."
"Green to Red, sounds good to me. Last one to destroy a colony buys the beer."
"Blue to Green, watch it man, we're only taking out one remember, test the suits and everything."
"Red to all, all squads in arrow formation, approach to six hundred metres and wait for orders to attack. Advance on my mark…Mark."
"Nine hundred, eight. What the hell?!"
"Thought I caught a reading out there but it's gone, probably just debris."
"Blue to Red, I've got no radio traffic, no threats out there, just void."
"Green to Red, I confirm th…(Clang)"
"Green?! Green, talk damn it!"
"I…I ran into something."
"We're in a fucking void Green, there isn't anything to run in to except a massive colony and you're not even close to it."
"Red there's something out here."
"Grow up Green, it's not funny."
"Who the hells laughing?! I hit something, goddamn it! There's something out here!"
"Red to all, run a full sweep with sensors."
"Red, same. There's nothing out here Green."
"Yeah, guys. Nothing. Too much of nothing."
"Red, What the hell you talking about Blue."
"Run a sweep on the colony Red, there's no life signs. The things been evacuated, completely."
"Impossible, no scanners can pick up the station! Besides, who would…"
"AGHHHHHHHH. IT'S A GUNDAM!!!!!!"
"Blue to Red. He's gone. Activate the dolls, there's something out here."
"I don't like this."
"What's to like about it Yellow?"
"How'd they know man!"
"Red to Yellow, get your shit together and watch your scanners. When these bastards show themselves I'm going to make them pay for taking out Green."
Red, a middle aged man, beard scattered with white strands between brown, leaned forward in his harness, intensely staring at his scanner display, eyes peeled for any sign of an enemy.
His suit, a highly advanced Taurus, hung motionless in space, twitching slightly as his hands shook on the controls, palms damp with sweat. He glanced up from his calm tactical scanner display, seeing only the small blue dots of his friends, with green dots of dolls scattered between them. For no real reason he glanced up at his outer display screens, expecting comfort from the view of the stars.
His forgot to breathe as his screens showed burning green eyes staring right through the screens and into him, fury and contempt visible in those mechanical sensors. A black armoured form, wings spread was perfectly camouflaged in the darkness of space. Red swallowed hard, body frozen in fear as the suit raised its arm, lifting a double bladed scythe, ready to strike.
"Cash or Cheque?" Growled a voice through his speakers. With a gasp Red realised that they'd been being watched all the time, that their radio messages had given away their locations in the fields of dolls.
Swearing he smashed his fist in to the button that would set the Gundam as the doll's target as he watched the scythe descend. He screamed, the sound lost to vacuum as his cockpit was torn open.
Violet eyes watched emotionlessly as the suit before him was slashed in two. The cockpit systems sparked in the darkness a second before its reactor detonated, the force not even rattling his suit as Scythe automatically compensated, small but practised hands moving at the systems soft suggestion, pushing gently on the thrusters, taking his beloved suit flashing away from the explosion.
Mobile dolls turned to watch him speed away, suit quicker than they could ever be, approaching the empty colony. Their eyes flared red, locking on to their target, boosters activating as they advanced as one, two hundred mindless machines attacking without question.
Controls moved under the soft caresses of both mind and fingers, Deathscyth diving toward the colonies main hanger bay, ignoring the random, low powered shots that followed him, dodging without effort.
No mobile doll could destroy him.
The proximity counter began to beep, warning him that the hanger was close and shrilly begging for him to slow. Scythe silenced it, knowing that its pilot needed concentration. The massive black visage of death still ploughed forward, doll's on its tail.
A few more seconds.
A few more.
"Now." Two voices spoke as one, toneless mechanical mixing with manic shout as hands grasped controls and pulled the Gundam to one side of the hangers entrance, gritting his teeth against the pain as his body weight suddenly increased, colony gravity protesting his movement.
The doll's froze where they were, boosters glowing as their computers struggled to deal with what had occurred, their scanners failing to distinguish between the steel of the colony and the gundanium of the shadows hiding within it. "Special delivery. Loada dollies here for one Heero Yuy."
A streak of white exploded from the hanger, beautiful white wings flowing around its armoured form. Even as it charged the scrambled suits, he could see the spark of air in vacuum as the double gun pulled apart, Wing Zero's powerful engines taking him to the centre of the crowd.
The dolls turned to the Gundam, struggling with whether to label him as an enemy or ally. By the time they got their answer it was too late.
Arms out, a gun in each had, Wing fired, spinning in place as yellow light washed over the puzzled dolls, leaving explosions of colour and swirling debris in its wake as the weak armour was burnt away, power over loading the delicate reactors.
"Ahh, Heero. Barbie's everywhere are hidin' under their beds." He muttered, watching the destruction spread until the two hundred dolls were halved in number and the double gun was out of energy. Heero slammed it home on to Wing's shoulder holster even as it refused, tucking it under long, angel like wings.
"Baka." Heero's growl echoed in the large cockpit, off set by Quatre's giggle as the three remaining Gundams blasted out of the hanger. They levelled with both Wing and Scythe as they speed together at the remaining enemy suits, ignoring the shouts of panic that they could pick up from the two remaining human piloted mobile suits.
"What's so funny Quatre?" Wufei asked, tone serious but with an underlying edge of excitement. Despite his dislike for doll's they did make fighting them a bit more pleasurable as they knew that they were not directly harming anyone with their attack.
"Oh, sorry. I just got this picture of Heero playing with a Barbie in my head." The Arabian explained, sniggering as he spoke and electing two agreeing chuckles from Trowa and Wufei as they shared the image.
Quatre listened intently to Sandrock's Comm, waiting for Duo's voice to join the others.
It was a second late, the laugh, when it came and sounded slightly forced, like the other jokes that Duo had made. As though he was making himself taunt and play, not doing it naturally as he had during the first year that Quatre had known the younger boy.
Before that words were new, filled with hardly suppressed excitement. Now there was a weariness to Duo's tone that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He found that he had to take over from the American to provide their normal banter but felt guilty in doing so. He wasn't as good at it.
"Omae o Korosu." Heero snapped but the blond could hear the smile in his voice. The perfect soldier had long ago learnt to accept and even enjoy being teased. Duo had…Duo had taught them all so much.
"Yeah, yeah. Heard that before." Quatre muttered, wincing mentally as Duo chuckled without feeling, glad that in Deathscythe the boy's mental shield were stopping him from sensing his friends pain.
"Ah, Heero, ya can ask ta borrow Relena's later." Duo called, at the second that they hit the swarming suits. Quatre grimaced, Sandrock's heated swords slashing through the gathered suits, knowing tactically what the men controlling them were trying to do.
Using the Dolls as a shield, they were retreating, but neither Zero or Deathscythe were going to let them. They dove through the crowded battlefields, leaving a trail of explosions in their wake as energy sabre and scythe slashed through the confused suits, exposing temperature sensitive electrical equipment to the harsh cold of the void.
On his left, although impossible to hear in a vacuum, he felt the double chain guns of Heavyarms open up, raking in even arcs across the battle field, cutting around the forms of his friends, decimating the ranks.
On his right Wufei's lasers lanced out even as Dragon claws caught the nearest doll's, crushing them before throwing the exploding remains in to the ranks of suits, watching in satisfaction as the dolls destruction took out more of its brethren.
SandRock dodged the shots being returned, instinctively finding the weakness in the formations and exploiting them, dicing the suits as he flew on, realising that the hundred suits now numbered barely twenty. Up ahead the two Taurus' used larger, space beam rifles to shot at the approaching Gundams, their shots not even coming close to scorching thick gundanium armour.
Wing Zero, with better boosters, slammed into its target first, Heero not bothering to slow the massive machine and instead body checked it, driving his sabre through the suits main reactor before tossing it to the side like so much scrap metal.
Deathscythe though, paused before the other suit, green eyes burning into its target. The pilot bravely raised his suit's gun, targeting the Gundam a few metres away only to have its entire arm torn off for its trouble.
Quatre swallowed hard as he heard Duo speak to the whimpering man, voice devoid of all emotion. It was like hearing a stranger.
"You will die here today, having accomplished nothing and I will not feel anything at taking your life, as I will not regret killing your friends or any others of you who would destroy the peace we have brought. Shinigama has come for you."
The glowing scythe slashed, its blade driving up, through the cockpit, the pilots scream cut short as he was incinerated within his own chair. Deathscyth did not move away as the systems sparked, dangerously close to the self-detonating suit.
"K'so, Duo, get clear." Quatre heard himself scream, watching in grim fascination as the suit blew, the orange cloud of flames engulfing the huge black Gundam.
Heero leapt from Wing Zero's cockpit before the ramp was fully lowered, dropping onto the walk way of Peace Million Two's hanger bay with a loud clang, his normal grace hampered by the space suit and magnetic boots he wore.
Tearing off his helmet to reveal dark brown hair, he threw the offending head gear back in to his Gundam before sprinting off, one hand trying to brush his sweaty fringe from his eyes.
He did not register the fact that other suits were hissing open around him, revealing tired but worried pilots who descended at a steadier yet still rapid pace to the walk way, jogging after him to allow their leader time alone with the object of their concern.
Instead cobalt eyes saw only the scorched gundanium armour, burns revealing silver metal under black paint. A hatch in the massive Gundams chest slid to one side, the pulsing green eyes glaring with fury down at the walkway as its pilot slid out of his over sized chair and stumbled on to the walkway.
Duo's forehead was bleeding, crimson staining the side of his face, drying to a dull rusty brown, sealing his eye closed. Though the figure wore a space suit and radio head set, his helmet was missing and Heero suspected privately that it still sat in Duo's locker.
That thought only severed to make the perfect soldier even angrier as he slid to a stop in front of his best friend. He grabbed the smaller boy by his collar and nearly lifted him clear off of the floor when he pulled them nose to nose, cobalt burning in to the averted gaze.
"What the hell were you thinking Duo?! WERE you thinking?!!! Are you trying to kill yourself?!!!" Heero shouted, hands trembling slightly in both rage and fear.
His heart had all but stopped when the flames had surrounded the black Gundam, blocking Deathscythe from view. In those seconds he was helpless and he hated the feeling. Unable to protect Duo, unable to charge in and save the day. It was something that he was not used to and something he never want to become accustomed to experiencing.
He felt thin, ice cold fingers grasp his wrists, tugging his hands and easily breaking Heero's hold on the strong cloth. A hand pushed him back a step.
Duo, who weighed nothing, who had never been able to put enough strength against him to make him even sway, moved him away. Heero's gut twisted slightly when Duo finally met his gaze, cobalt fidgeting under the violet eyes, devoid of any emotion and lit with an eerier green flame.
The normally laughing features were drawn, skin under those unnatural eyes dark, the face sharp and shadowed with barely hidden pain. He gave a weak grin to his best friend's last question, raising an eyebrow as the other pilots joined the confrontation.
"Yeah, Heero. Only just noticed?" He answered, the weariness in his tone cancelling out any of the forced humour. Heero looked away from those eyes, scowling instead at Duo's injury, looking it over in concern.
"You are not going to die, not until after…"
"After what Heero?! After the mission, after the war, after the next of my victims? When does it stop Heero?!" He yelled, spinning away from the older boy angrily.
Heero glance to his left as he spotted movement, watching as Trowa caught the collapsing blond, Quatre clutching his chest in agony, his face pale and aqua eyes lost. Heero took a step forward, forcing himself to concentrate only on his mission, only on Duo.
Gingerly he reached out and placed a hand on Duo's shoulder, stroking the tense muscles under the flight suit tenderly, feeling the tremors that shook the small American.
"Duo. Please, you have to stay alive, I can't fail a mission." Heero whispered, hesitating as the shaking stopped. Quatre's eyes closed suddenly, gasping even as some of his colour returned, fingers releasing his chest to grip Wufei's offered hand. Heero grinned mentally to himself at calming Duo enough to not affect the blond, turning back to his roommate.
Slowly he took an involuntary step back.
The green flames burning in violet irises were gone now. The pupils were gone, both eyes burning an unholy green, a perfect match for the mechanical eyes staring down from Deathscyths face. Any attempts at forced emotions were gone, replaced with a coldness that made Heero cringe. He was staring in the eyes of Shinigama. The pure, unaltered deal, not the half-and-half that Duo normally had with his protective other.
"Mission?!" The boy snarled, fists clenching in suppressed rage. "Is that all he is to you!" Heero folded his arms stubbornly, not looking away as Death itself stared right in to him.
"Stop hiding like a child Duo, speak to me as yourself, don't send someone else. You will not do this kind of idiocy again. Trying to get blown up. You endangered us all." Heero snapped, looking down at the person before him, waiting for the facial expression to revert back to the one that he remembered, waiting for the green fire to die.
Instead small hands shot out, grabbing Heero's neck and lifting him clear off of the decking, staring up at him. White teeth flashed in an animalistic snarl as Shinigama responded.
"Shut up Yuy, he has already been warned against repeating such an action, by both myself and by Scythe. He took us by surprise. It will not occur again with us watching now when he is in Deathscyth. But you must protect him when he's out of the hanger bay. I am not strong enough to take control away from him when out of Scythe's range so you must watch him." Shinigama relaxed slightly, dropping Heero to the metal grilled floor, watching the Japanese boy wheeze as he struggled to draw in air, and clutching his bruised throat. "Be careful what you say to him Yuy. He wants…needs to die so much."
"He…He is being an idiot." Heero complained half heartily, causing the protective personality to raise an eyebrow.
"Perhaps, but you know nothing of what he is feeling. Yuy, guard his body, protect it, even from himself." Shinigama pleaded, electing a sarcastic smile from Wufei as he helped to steady Quatre on his feet, turning to the approaching figure of his friend, showing little fear of the strange expression and eyes.
"Especially from himself." Wufei muttered, watching as the Americans hand reached out, gently touching Quatre's chest, smoothing the wrinkled cloth over the blonde's heart.
"Winner. You feel what he feels sometimes. You know his pain. Protect his spirit as I protect his mind. He will need us all to get through this." Quatre nodded softly, aqua eyes watching as his younger friend turned away, walking toward the door out of the hanger, his step different.
His stride was carefully measured, each footfall stable and calculated, even in magnetic boots. As though trying to control a strength too great for the lithe, under sized body.
Quatre glanced back to Heero who Trowa had pulled to his feet, seeing the angry red marks already blossoming on Heero's skin and shuddered.
He just had to hope that when they needed to restrain Duo, they would be strong enough.
Quatre glanced up from his book at the soft knock on his door, setting the thick leather bound volume down on his bed side table, stretching stiffly as he pulled himself off of his soft sheeted bed.
Howard had gone all out when he built the second of his massive ships, replacing the one that he had lost in battle. Although this was the first time that the ship had its captain on its bridge. It was the equivalent of a luxury liner, functional as a battle cruiser but more useful as a place of rest and recovery for both man and machine.
All five of the Gundam pilots had been instantly shown to their private rooms once they'd boarded, surprised at what they were shown. Each room was a single, spacious with its own small bathroom but joined onto a larger hub of a living room and mini kitchenette which the five rooms shared for briefings or relaxation. They had their own computers, linked to the ships main frame with unlimited access and an entertainment unit.
The Preventers and Oz (though not willingly) had paid for all of this to be created as well as the personalised rooms.
Quatre's own had a large, comfortable four poster bed with sky blue sheets and walls of a cheerful yellow. White drapes moved softly to the flow of the air from the vents, easing the bright over heads and giving the room 'a tent in desert' feel. The room was slightly warmer than most, less humid with thick sandy yellow carpets.
He yawned before moving for his door, opening it quietly, aware that the other pilots were sleeping and wondering who would be visiting him after ten at night. His question was answered when he came face to face with worried violet eyes, flittering up to meet his gaze before lowering again, never resting as they scanned the corridor as though it was the most interesting thing he had ever seen.
"Hey Duo, what's up?" Quatre asked, tone open and neutral while he forced his concern away. Duo was dressed in boxers and a very lose tank top that he realised had once been one of Heero's that the other boy had grown out of during the Mariemei incident and offered to Duo, with other clothes to see if the smaller pilot had any use for them.
"Um, hey Que. Ya doin' anythin' cause I don' wanna interrupt or nothin'. Um, I'll…um go, sorry man." Duo answered very quickly, not giving Quatre a chance to answer before he turned away, headed back toward the living room rather than his bedroom.
The blond doubted Duo had even looked in to the room other than to make use of the bath after the battle, although he was glad to see that the long cut on Duo's pale forehead had been cleaned and covered by a white plaster, most likely by Sally. He caught the smaller boys arm before he escaped, drawing him back.
"I was only reading Duo. You aren't interrupting. What's wrong.?" Quatre asked, watching with increasing worry as the American fidgeted, trying desperately not to meet his intense aqua gaze.
Quatre swallowed as he realised why. Violet eyes were tinged with green, as though the link still remained. It was disturbing to see such a light burning where joy once had.
Quatre changed his grip to Duo's hand, gently tugging the resisting boy in to his room and quietly closing the door behind them. He pushed Duo on to his bed, sitting down next to him, legs folded but did not release his grip, instead stroking his fingers over Duo's palm. "Can't sleep?" He murmured softly, eyes studying Duo who was staring numbly down at his own bare feet.
"Can't…Won't…The dreams, Shinigama can't stop them and they just keep getting worse." Duo whispered, tugging at the end of his braid, drawing patterns with the hair on his thigh as though it were a paintbrush. "I'm real sorry ya had ta feel that earlier Que, I swear I'll keep my shields up better, its just…"
"No, Duo. I don't want you to shield or hide. I don't mind." Quatre said soothingly, plucking up his own hair brush from his bed side table, crawling over so that he sat beside his friend and slipped the braid's end from numb fingers, tugging off the black elastic and gently unwinding the knotted and frazzled hair.
It was not as lush and silky as normal, Duo's rapidly declining health and stress showing in the lack of care that he was showing his glorious chestnut mane. Duo was rarely vain, confident of his looks but not egotistically so, but his hair had always been something special.
Washing and drying the near knee length hair took half a day and brushing it probably could take hours, a duty that both Quatre and Heero had adopted as their own, glad for any chance of seeing the youngest team member so at ease.
In the later days of the Eve wars it had been one of the few ways that they'd been able to help the boy to sleep, relaxing him enough so that unconsciousness could take him.
He tenderly ran his hairbrush up, working through tangles and knots, his spare hand still holding Duo's as reassurance.
"What…what do ya feel when ya kill?" Duo asked softly, leaning slightly toward Quatre, eyes heavy and strained features dark in the dim room. Quatre pursed his lips in thought, letting the brushes bristles tickle Duo's scalp and neck, satisfied that the once dull hair was now shining again.
He set the brush down and wrapped an arm around Duo's slim waist, wincing as his forearm ran over emaciated ribs as he tugged the smaller form against his chest as he eased himself back onto his large pillows.
"Hmmm…Guilt. Sadness. Regret. Anger that we have been driven to kill in the name of peace. Pain that I have taken lives. Fear that I will be punished for what I have done. Fear of the consequences to my soul. I feel many things Duo, though I have never felt pride at it. Somehow, killing to me is a failure on my own part but Trowa, Wufei, Heero and you, helped me to accept that sometimes killing is necessary. The training helped too and knowing that we were accomplishing something." Quatre explained, fingers running through the lose hair that flowed over Duo's shoulder, voice quiet as he comforted the person he considered to be the younger brother he had always wanted.
"Oh." Duo breathed, swallowing nervously, tenseness drifting away under the blonde's fingers. "I…I don't feel anythin'. I know I should, but I don't. Its like all the bad stuffs numb but the good stuff still comes through, 'cept when I sleep." Quatre frowned.
"What is causing you pain then?" He asked.
"Everythin'. Not feelin' when ya know ya should, it eats at ya. And its getting' harder ta be just me. Even now he's watching." Quatre craned his neck and looked down into Duo's violet eyes, seeing the burning green flames dancing in the dull irises. He had never seen the other boy's eyes quite so lifeless or hopeless before.
"What does it feel like? When he's there with you?" Quatre asked, watching as those dead eyes fluttered closed, the thin frame twisting slightly to get more comfortable against the larger chest he was curled up to.
"Bit like this. Arms holdin' me, claws strokin' my stomach, wings curled round me like a shield. He's bigger, stands behind me. I can still think and see and act but it's like I'm distant…like it's all not real…like a dream." Duo answered, lips tugging slightly in to a child like smug smile, weak but real.
Quatre's fingers dropped to Duo's flat stomach, wishing that its shape was caused only by strength rather than self-starvation, and began to draw circles on the white top, pressing lightly with his slim fingers.
"And when it's just him in control?" He asked, noticing as the injured forehead creased, smile faltering.
"Darkness, cloth against my face. He hugs me against his chest, and the wings and arms hold me." Duo whispered.
"Do you know what happens? What you do during that time?"
"Sometimes he tells…shows me the nicer stuff. Mosta the time he don't." Quatre nodded his understanding, tucking Duo's head under his chin, and pulling some of his sheets over to carefully cover both of them, feeling the chill to the Americans flesh which the warm room temperature could not explain.
He took a deep breath, and released it in a long sigh, feeling as Duo heart and breathing slowed, ready for rest. The younger boys body had been driven to the brink with exhaustion from the last two weeks of preparation for the fighting, unable to rest as Duo refused to give in to sleep as the fear of dreams hung over his head.
"Tell me about the nightmares Duo. What do you see? What do you feel?" Quatre nearly begged, wondering what could make the pilot of Deathscyth afraid to close his eyes. Whatever resistance to talk about them that Duo had was taken from him by his nearly asleep state. Relaxed and all but purring under Quatre's touch Duo burrowed further in to the wider chest, the silky night-clothes that Quatre wore stroking his face as he listened to the other boys heart beat.
"Blood. Hands reachin' for me, angry and screamin', corpses tugging at me, tryin' ta hurt me as the pools of blood grow, drippin' from their wounds. It gets deeper till its head height and I'm drownin'. The hands keep drawin' me deeper and I can't breath…blood everywhere…staining…" Quatre breathed softly onto the side of Duo's face, seeing the closed eyes flicked and face tighten as he relived the nightmare.
One hand left Duo's stomach to stroke through a dark eyebrow, calming the boy again.
"Then what Duo?"
"He…he comes. Shinigama, cuts them away…saves me."
"What does he do?"
"I'm cold…naked...stained with blood and coughin', trying ta get rid of the blood. He hugs me and everything stops."
"I ain't scared anymore, or cold and the stains don't matter. But I know I shouldn't be like that. I should suffer. I've done terrible things and laughed at the aftermath."
"Sometimes when people can't cry, laughing is the next best thing Duo."
"We all have."
"Killed my friends, my families. I've been killing for so long. It follows me."
"Death, takes everything, steals everything I love an' leaves me in the silence. There's only one thing that it never takes that I want it ta have."
"What do you want it to take Duo?"
Quatre closed his eyes softly, fingers continuing in their soothing movement as he concentrated, reaching out mentally to touch the ill concealed pain burning within Duo, pain at not being able to feel emotions that he knew he should.
Pain at not being able to forget. Scythe feed off of his pain, projecting the enemies as its caused, making Duo wish to destroy them more, his rage and sense of immortality giving him the advantage that could well take him beyond even Heero skill as a pilot.
But only if he embraced the emotionless killing, a thing that Duo could not do. He needed to feel the emotions that Shinigama was shielding him from. The emptiness had gone beyond an ache now.
Scythes link was getting too strong and it was driving the boy insane, trying to force a power upon him even as another part of the system struggled to protect him from the result of having such a power would do to his mind. Scythe demanded that the enemy be annihilated, utterly destroyed in order to keep the peace, while Duo struggled to kill only those that poised a threat. Fighting the systems evolving state was torture.
Quatre's mind snapped back from Duo's, trying to control his gasp so as not to awaken the peacefully sleeping Duo.
Shinigama was the creation of not only a split in Duo but also a split in Scythe. The systems kindness, mercy and protectiveness had linked with Duo to keep him sane, not from the war but from something else, leaving only the parts of the system obsessed with the creation and reinforcement of peace. A peace that it thought could only be gained by mass destruction.
The Scythe system was trying to get its way because an insane Duo would destroy everything like it wanted. And that's what the nightmares were slowly doing, weakening Duo until he was too weak to fight the full link that Scythe was forcing. Until Scythe could take full control.
Aqua eyes blinked down at the small form resting cuddled up to him in the first true dreamless sleep that he'd had for years, if ever. And Quatre was glad. The rest would give Duo energy to continue fighting this enemy, for they could not risk removing the system and damaging their best pilot in the middle of a war. Quatre rested his head on the pillow beside Duo's, studying the far wall as he remembered his first experience with the Zero system. Next to the Scythe system Zero was child's play.
A knock drew him from a dream of the sands of his home, missing the touch of real sun from the Earth's deserts on his skin even though it had been nearly a year since he had last felt its heat.
He yawned, moving his hand to cover his mouth only to find it pinned. He smiled softly as he glanced down at the light patch of warmth spread over his chest, snuggled up as close as possible to Quatre's body, one leg curled over his legs to keep him in place.
For once, Duo's face was calm, eyes shut peacefully as his breath puffed in slow clouds , tickling Quatre's neck even as a fine strands of chestnut hair fell over his sheets, much like a halo around the younger boys face.
The knock repeated, louder and the blond winced. He did not want the small American to awaken yet. He needed to sleep so desperately. The door opened and Heero peaked in, brown hair more messed than usual, his cobalt eyes dark with worry.
"Gomen Quatre, have you seen…" He trailed off as his eyes drifted to the motionless pair, walking silently in to the room. His eyes locked on to the smiling aqua gaze that followed him as he crossed the room and crouched at the bed side, hand gently stroking the lose hair in wonder. "You got him to sleep." Heero whispered, awed.
Quatre nodded softly, understanding that Heero had most likely panicked when he had found Duo gone from his room.
"Mmmm. What's up?" Quatre asked, watching as Heero's mask fell back in to place, pain written in his eyes as he reached for Duo's bony shoulder, gripping the pale skin gently.
"A mission. We have to wake him." Heero growled, obviously not pleased at the idea. Quatre sighed, placing a hand over Heero's to pause him.
"Are you sure?" Heero nodded his answer, shaking Duo's body, not stopping until a sleepy complaint was mumbled into Quatre's neck and violet eyes flickered open, focusing slowly on the grin that Quatre had aimed at him. Duo swallowed nervously as he realised his position, scrambling back so fast that he got tangled in the sheets and hit the carpeted floor with a thud.
"Owww." He moaned, pulling himself to his feet even as both Heero and Quatre chuckled, Heero ruffling his hair as he left.
"Get changed quickly. We've got two hundred enemy suits headed for the L4 area." He ordered, disappearing out of the door leaving the nervously blushing American alone with the smiling Quatre.
"Um…Uh…Gomen Que, didn't mean ta fall asleep or bug ya or…"
"Duo." Quatre said, cutting of his friend's mumble. "After everything we've gone through together I don't mind at all sharing my room if you need company to be able to sleep. We're all but brothers Duo, you have only to ask, okay." Duo nodded, gifting the blond with a wide smile that slightly lightened his eyes, moving to the door, still in his boxers and tank top.
"Arigatou Quatre." He said, before charging out of the room, leaving Quatre to watch the retreating pair of bright green boxers as they disappeared in to Duo's bedroom so that he could change for battle. The blond rolled his eyes with another, more amused sigh at his friends antics. For a second at least he had been acting almost normally. He doubted it would last though.
"Baka." He muttered before standing himself to change.
"This helpin' us stuff is getting' ta be a habit huh, Sexy Zechsy."
Heero's lips tightened at the comment, fighting desperately with himself as he surpressed the urge to smile.
Even suffering, Duo could not help but cheer up everyone else up before a battle. It was slightly strained humour now, coming only after a thoughtful deliberation rather than the ramblings of whatever was occurring to Duo to say. The jokes were planned, not accidental.
And worse was the edge that had reappeared in the younger boy's tenor voice.
Somehow, after seeing Duo sleeping peacefully, even if it had been Quatre that had managed the feat rather than himself, had made Heero hope that everything would soon be well with his best friend. That hope faded as Duo had walked into the hanger bay, the proximity of the system instantly putting the boy back on guard. The sleep that Quatre had won him would give him perhaps a few days of stable thought before again he started to consider death again.
On his displays he saw the older blond Preventer scowl at the nickname that he'd been issued after his first encounter with the American pilot nearly three years ago. He had always hated it, especially after Noin's brief service with the Gundam pilots in the first war when she had taken to using it.
"Maxwell, my name is Zechs."
"Hey, Wu. He stole your line."
"The Baka is right. Injustice!"
"Are you all insane?"
"Yes." Trowa's perfectly calm response froze Zechs' reply in his throat, leaving the man gapping at the serious teenager. Heero smirked, deciding to put in his two cents as they hung just in front of the massive L4 colony, ready to intercept the suits headed their way, positioned in the way of the suits but a safe distance from Quatre's home colony.
"It's contagious. Duo's a carrier." Heero muttered, getting a giggle from Duo's Comm that made him lose his battle with his smile, letting it warm his normally strict features.
Zechs blinked at him, amazed that his old rival had joined in on the pointless bickering. He'd always taken Heero and Trowa as the most mature of the group.
"He infected us all. Life is better this way…Join us Sexy Zechsy…" Quatre whispered, tone eerily quiet over the Comm channel, staring at Zechs' image with a blank, zombie expression on his face. Zechs' face darkened with worry as he wriggled in his suit, looking nervous.
"Yes…join us." Wufei hissed, black eyes shining with hidden laughter as his hand slowly moved toward his cockpit camera, making it appear as though he were reaching through the screen for Zechs to attack him.
Zechs flattened himself back in his seat, looking very worried. Three of the five pilots were not well known for their sense of humour, Wufei and Heero especially. Somehow he had a feeling maybe something very strange was actually happening with these boys.
"Okay children. Stop scaring the nice Preventer now, we've got incoming." Trowa ordered over the Comm, offering Zechs a reassuring grin that danced in his visible emerald eye, making it clear that the pilot of Tallgeese had just been the butt of their pre-battle teasing.
"Awww, but Trowa…" Quatre whined, smiling brightly even as his hands busily moved over control panels, activating weapons systems and bringing SandRock up to maximum power. "…we were just playing."
Trowa chuckled, his camera shot fading away to free up his computer and increase its processing time.
"Time to be serious guys." Heero growled, smile gone as his cobalt eyes went cold, watching as Quatre's camera faded as Zechs' did, their faces intense in concentration but lightened slightly by the conversation.
"Yeah, lets get serious or Heero won't let us play with the dolls." Wufei said in perfect maturity, the only hint of his laughter being a tug on the side of his mouth as his screen faded while Comm crackled with giggles.
Heero snorted at the banter, watching his screens as the red dots approached, scanners analysis the incoming suits heat pattern, trying to find which space Taurus' were controlled but computers and which were controlled by people.
"Duo, you need to activate your weapons systems." Trowa muttered as the laughs faded as they readied themselves for battle. There was no response, only deep breaths, slightly too fast from Duo's comm.
"Maxwell, stop joking around and get ready, they're closing." Wufei snapped even as Heero looked up from his targeting data, hands resting calmly on his controls as he aimed for the only human occupied suit that Zero had been able to find, the cockpit heat clocking systems, a new addition since their last battle, stopping him from locating more.
"Duo! Duo, get your weapons powered, damn it!" Zechs yelled, moving his own suit into the path between the frozen Gundam and the enemies.
He lifted his buster rifle to his shoulder, the high range weapons glowing as it fired the first shot of the battle, striking the space Taurus dolls front line, destroying one of the closely packed suits, the explosion from its core damaging the dolls nearby.
Heero fired Wings own rifle a second later, the more powerful double beam sweeping over the forward ranks, lingering only long enough to pierce the weaker armour and trigger the destruction of the badly shielded power cores before moving on. The yellow light skimmed over the one human piloted suit, creating a far larger explosion than with the dolls as the mans oxygen supply ignited.
He was barely concentrating on the damage, watching it with half his mind as he debated ordering Duo to retreat back to the colony and await pick up. With Zechs here they had extra but unlike before they had not taken their enemy by surprise.
The first line of suits were always easy targets but those behind were being directly controlled and directed by human pilots, their tactics changing as required. They were not fighting mere robots and without Duo's abilities Heero wasn't sure how well this battle would go, especially as they could not find the controllers.
"Duo." He whispered, looking up at the single remaining frame on his side screen, showing Duo with his head lowered, chestnut hair falling in to his face. "Duo. I need you to…to do what your best at. I need you to kill the enemies out there. I need you to destroy the dolls. I need you to be Shinigama." He winced at the last word, hoping that Duo would forgive him.
The screens flared as both Quatre and Wufei charged into the sea of dolls, slashing out and trying to score hits on the now properly organised formations, finding themselves surrounded and forced to fight just to remain free.
Gundamium glowed under the raining hits, armour suffering as SandRock and Nataku dodged and fought. Heero all but felt the massive double cannons open up, firing in small burst this time, Trowa forced to track on to single targets in order to score hits rather than just fill the battlefield with bullets as the dolls flipped and twisted to avoid his attacks.
"We're here." Duo whispered softly, glancing up, his eyes still a dull violet even as green flames burned around the edge of his irises. His hair shadowed his face and the manic smile all but stalled Heero's heart.
He heard the soft gasp of Zechs over the Comm, seeing Duo in his full glory for the first ever time. The white Gundams aim wavered and its shot missed the suit it was aiming for. Duo's…Shinigami's…perhaps both of their eyes burned in to Heero as he chuckled, a low, dangerous noise that made Heero shiver. "I can see them Heero. No one can hide from Death."
Duo licked his lips and suddenly Deathscyths weapons came on line as though it took just a thought to do such a thing, and with the Scythe system installed it took only that. The staff clenched in Deathscyths right hand flared to life, blade pulsing even as the Gundams boosters flared to life.
"Time to go hunting." He purred and with that was gone, the video and Comm shut down and full stealth systems activated. Zechs swore over the Comm as a blast of power from being so close to the blast off again damaged his aim, making him waste his last shot. A line of explosions through the seas of glinting metal with no apparent cause the only thing that marking that Duo was still very much involved in the battle.
Heero sighed, sweeping the last of his shots over the field before he dropped his buster rifle beside Zechs and shot after the other white suit, pulling free his two beam sabres and slashing open dolls as he moved in to the fray.
Using both the stealth systems and weapons together would be a massive drain on Deathscyths power core. He would not be able to keep it up long and would lose the use of his scythe to conserve on power, limited to the suits only other two weapons, its Vulcan's and tri-blade shield.
Heero swore to himself, back to back with his former rival as they struggled as attack after attack rained down on them, bullets and beam rifles burning and cracking their armour as they cut down wave after wave that just kept coming.
"Hurry Duo." He whispered as his own Vulcan's rattled empty.
'Who is your enemy?' Scythe whispered as Duo's hands speed over his controls, rearranging the flow of power to his Gundam.
His engineering skills emerging as he expertly transferred connections with one hand, while the other lined his suit up with his target. The pulsing yellow light on his targeting scanner, the first of the enemy suits that his advanced scanners had determined carried a person rather than a computer in its cockpit. Duo ignored the voice, letting the wings that encased his mind shield him from the doubts that the words raised in his mind, distracting his concentration.
His friends needed him now, no matter the cost. No matter the pain that this cost him, he would kill those men for those that he loved.
'Why do you kill?' The control panel for his stealth system sparked, overrides cutting in and shutting itself down as the core threatened to give out at the demand being made of it.
Duo swore to himself, grabbing his controls with both hands as he slammed his main weapon back in to its harness, slamming the button that flattered Deathscyths massive wings back against its chest, increasing its protection as dolls turned toward him, their sensors no longer blocked by his cloaks.
They tried to circle, the pulsing yellow lights on his targeting computer jetting away, sending dolls out to intercept the Gundam as they retreated into the masses of the battle.
The twenty human piloted suits had been clumped together for protection, surrounded by an entire squad of fifty dolls. Even without his scanners Duo had known where they would be, the invention and use of computer controlled suits reducing men back in to being cowards. Duo snarled, raising Deathscyths left arm, stealing power from his own life support system to give him enough energy for a shield launch.
'Why do you fight?' Duo took aim despite the rocking of his suit as the dolls pounded him, gritting his teeth in determination not to listen to the voice. Scythe had helped him, protected him, and given him so much but it wanted something. Duo knew that, but Shinigama trusted it. After all half of it was Scythe.
He slammed his hand down on the launch button, watching with a grin as the shield blasted away, imbedding itself into the chest of one of the human suits before detonation both itself and the suits core. The explosion ripped through the surrounding suits, tearing through doll and human alike, leaving a glowing orange fireball in its wake.
"For peace." Duo growled, pushing on his boosters to counteract the power of the blast, watching in satisfaction as the dolls that surrounded him paused, their computers trying to re-establish contact with their controllers before switching to their automated responses. Using random formations that did not take factors in to account.
Grimly Duo smiled as he fell back, Vulcan's plowing a route back to the safely of his friends, knowing that he would need their help with a drained power core. He was rapidly running out of projectile weapons.
'How many will you kill?'
Duo fought against to words, relaxing back in to the comfort of the wings, letting the patterns that the claws drew soothe him even as he continued to fight, distanced from it all. He chuckled slightly as he watched the waves of dolls fall, each destruction flaring beautifully in the black void of space.
Yet that last question echoed in his mind, unanswered.
Quatre walked over to the still closed hatch of Deathscyth, sensing Heero standing at his side, their expressions sober while Wufei and Trowa joked around with Zechs, hoping to relieve their intensity with laughter as Duo had taught them.
Zechs rolled his eyes at their teasing about his expression during their earlier ruse, wondering when the two once strict and silent boys had eased up so much and knowing deep down that battling dolls stopped them from feeling guilt. If they had been out there killing that number of people their attitudes would have been gravely different.
The hatch slid slowly open, revealing a darkened interior and the slight shadow of a figure, eyes glowing as bright as Deathscyths in the darkness as it stepped forward.
Heero moved forward as Duo jumped weakly down from the ramp, not noticing as the hatch hissed back closed, his entire concentration on the small form of his friend.
The green flames still burned in Duo's eyes even as tears slid down his face, dripping on to his flight suit. His knees buckled on his third step forward and he collapsed to the floor, head hanging in shame at the fact that he was now so weak.
Heero said nothing as he carefully eased his larger bulk behind Duo, pulling the shivering boy up against his chest and wrapping his arms around Duo's waist. His cobalt eyes watched as Quatre mirrored him, kneeling just in front of the crying boy and using his practised fingers to stroke away the pooling tears.
Heero didn't see the hand that drew the long, old knife from the space suits outer pocket, a practised thumb flicking out the razor sharp blade, until it was nearly too late. A flash of silver caught his attention and he stared in shock as metal cut deep, crimson pouring from its wake.
It took barely a second for his hand to stop the blade and pull it from weakened fingers, handing it to a suddenly pale Quatre. Heero clamp his hand over the deep cut even as Trowa disappeared into his Gundam for his medical kit, joking attitude gone.
Heero ignored them though, tucking Duo's head under his chin and hugging him closer even as the blood ran from between his fingers from the long cut along Duo's forearm.
"Why?" He asked, normally hard tone so soft the Zechs barely recognised it, Heero's hand stroking along the shrunken stomach. Duo's breaths shuddered in his chest, sobs muffled by his weariness.
"I…I need to feel something Heero…anything. Please." Duo wheezed, violent eyes begging even as the green glowed without change. Quatre sighed hard at the look, watching as Trowa knelt at the Americans side and began to treat his wound, the European deciding against offering painkillers. Wufei and Zechs just watched, eyes wide as they watched Heero calm his best friend with tender words and soft caresses while Quatre striped Duo down to his under suit, the black thin cloth so tight that it could not contain hidden weapons.
"I'm sorry I had to ask that of you Duo. I'm so sorry." Heero whispered, breathe stirring Duo's fringe. "We'll find another way. So you don't have to fight. Zechs can take your place for as long as necessary." Duo's eyes squeezed shut, hiding the pain of those words as he pushed both mentally away from Shinigami's wings and Heero's physically embrace. He forced a weak smile, his heart burning as he wiped off his tears and stood.
"Thanks." He whispered. Heero nodded, standing too and turning suddenly, gun half drawn as Howard crashed in to the hanger bay that had been purposely left empty of people for the pilots to have some privacy after the battle. Noin and Sally were hot on his heels. Heero clicked the safety back on the gun but kept it handy. Howard never interrupted them unless something very important was happening.
"Those bastards! They tricked us!" Howard yelled, skidding to a halt, panting slightly as his age showed. Quatre blinked at him, before glancing around at the others to see only confused looks and a raised eyebrow from Trowa that silently asked him to be spokesperson.
"Pardon?" The Arabian asked politely, stepping forward slightly to look at Howard whose traditional sunglasses were missing. His aqua eye scanned the two women and he realised that Noin was crying and that Sally was trying to hold two expressions at once, furious and grim. Zechs wasted little time in stepping forward to hug his wife, concern in his face. Quatre though was still staring at Sally, whose eyes were glancing between his own and an unaware Duo who was too busy staring at his former 'uncle' to notice the silent conversation. Quatre cocked his head but Heero got the hint, stepping closer to Duo.
"Bastards tricked us. We though they'd only made small advancements but those cockpit cloaks are nothing. They've got suits with full stealth. The colony they destroyed never even saw them coming." Howard snarled, fingers curled so tightly in to fists that blood was dripping from where his nails had pierce the skin.
Wufei choked, sitting down on the deck plates so quickly that it looked as though his knees had given up in baring his weight. His black eyes were squeezed closed as he remembered his own colony's destruction. Trowa staggered, face pale and drawn with worry at the thought of so many people being killed, people that hadn't had a chance. Heero jaw clenched tightly even as Quatre cried out in pain, shaking his head violently in denial.
"Which…which one?" Zechs stammered, eyes hard as he watched the pain flash across features too young to know such emotions. Noin's arms tightened around his waist, sobs shaking her body. Howard grimaced and turned away, choking down his on pain, leaving only Sally capable of speech. She looked away, down at the deck plates, unable to meet the agony filled intense eyes of the boys that she had healed, supported and grown to love.
"L2." She whispered.
The room seemed to move as one, turning toward Duo who just stared blankly ahead, finding the metal bulkhead seemingly very interesting. Violet eyes saw nothing though as Duo searched his heart, his mind for anything…anything.
Vaguely he felt arms draw him close against a large body and a jacket being tucked in around him. It all felt distant as he continued his quest.
"Duo, oh Duo." Quatre's voice, higher than normal and worried, then cut of as something muffled it. Dimly he saw Trowa enfold to shaking teen in a supportive hug, drawing him away from the group in hopes of calming him.
"There is no weakness in grief Maxwell. Or in crying. Trust me that I know what you are feeling. You need to talk about it." Wufei, his voice bare of its normal sarcasm and restraint.
A hand squeezed his shoulder and he knew it was Wufei, offering his strength and understanding. Duo blinked at the honesty of the other boy's emotion, wincing mentally as he scanned his every aspect.
"Duo. It's not healthy to bottle up. Its bad for you." Zechs, a former enemy was offering him support and caring. It seemed so wrong, why did everything have to get so mixed up… enemies, allies. It kept changing. Everything kept changing.
"Is he going in to shock? You need to…."
"Oh Allah, all those people, all those…"
"Keep him warm Heero, we should get him up to…"
"Oh kid, I'm so sorry, so…"
Heero watched his best friend's face, ignoring the confused jumble of questions and sobs that echoed in the otherwise silent hanger, his cobalt eyes locked on Duo's face.
"SILENCE!" He ordered, glaring at them all until they obeted him, leaving only the gentle sounds of crying as he turned Duo around to face him, gripping the small hands in one of his own, the other hand lifted Duo's chin until cobalt met dull violet. "Duo, what do you feel?" He asked softly. The pale face grimaced slightly at the blunt question before he leaned his body forward, resting his head in the crock of Heero's neck.
"Nothing." He whispered before letting himself collapse in to the darkness that held out its arms for him, offering him sanctuary.
He felt nothing.
All his life had ever been.
He stood alone in a void. In a haven of nothing where feelings were stolen. Only logic remained. No gut impulse, no emotional urges. Just a thoughtful and empty silence.
L2 was gone.
Hilde was dead.
The ruins of Maxwell church were dust.
His past had been destroyed.
Where his home, his roots, his origins had once hung, bringing life to the void of space was now nothing. The streets that he had played in, the corners he had slept in, the shops he had stolen from were gone. The graves of his family were decimated beyond any hope of repair.
And he felt nothing.
Death had struck again. It had stripped him of yet another layer, yet another precious part of his soul. Death had come and once again it had failed to take him.
He released a scream, half from the pain, half of frustration. How could he live if he felt only good things? Without the bad they meant nothing. And without feeling he was nothing.
Everything was nothing.
'Who is your enemy?'
He spun, looking for the source of the voice but saw only blackness. The entire barren, black mentally created landscape was empty.
"Whoever threatens life and peace are my enemies." He answered, staring off in to the void.
Life. Whoever threatens life. He had killed. He had threatened and destroyed life. Was he his own enemy? But he had killed for peace. Did that make it right?
'Who do you kill?'
He had killed so many. Thousands of soldiers. He had destroyed lives, orphaned children and harmed innocents. And yet he felt nothing.
"I will kill anyone who threatens peace!" He yelled, clenching his fists. But that wasn't true. He had killed those that he loved. He had killed innocents simply by loving them. Simply because for a brief time he had been happy and Death had moved to snatch away that happiness.
'Why do you fight?'
Why? To stay alive. To stay unharmed. He had taken his first life to protect his own. What made him better than that man? A street kid that visited death upon everyone he grew close to. Why should he have been spared?
Yes, he had devoted his life to peace, more than Relena ever had. More than Heero ever could. He would not only risk his life to claim it but sacrifice his soul as well. Even Heero could not come close to the number of people that he had killed. Or how he had killed them. They could never know. They could never understand. For some a quick death was too good. His hands were stained with so much blood.
'Why do you live?'
Duo froze, staring down at his hands.
When he had met G and first activated the Scythe system. When he first went to war he had devoted his life to his colony. He had taken an oath, on his very blood, to himself alone.
He would bring his colony Freedom and Peace.
And after the Gundam wars he had succeeded. L2 prospered once again, money came to the colony and children were suddenly off of the street, the orphans cared for. There would be no more people like himself.
He swore another oath that night when Oz and White Fang had fallen.
He would protect the Peace.
He lived for the peace. He lived for his colony. He lived for his friends.
For two years he had worn a mask, never letting them know how much he hurt inside, letting them take what they needed from him. He gave them laughter. He gave them hope. He gave them love.
Why did he live? He lived for his colony.
His colony. L2.
That was nothing more than space dust now.
He had failed it.
Why did he live? He lived for his friends.
Hilde who was dead.
And the other pilots. His brothers.
Who he'd taught to joke, to be normal. He had given them life.
They had grown beyond him.
As Heero himself had said, Zechs could take his place.
They no longer needed him and as he was, he was just a burden.
He was useless to them.
He had failed them.
Why did he live?
Why did he live?
He lived for peace.
"I live for Peace. I fight for peace. I kill for peace."
'What are you willing to do for peace?'
"Nothing." Wufei whispered to himself as he sat on Heero's bed, curled in a blanket as he sat in a circle with his friends.
With his brothers. But one space was empty. One was missing.
Heero had settled him in Quatre's bed, having found that Duo's room contained only a hammock. Asking for a bed to be brought up from the stores would have taken too long so Quatre had offered his own room.
Heero had set the small boy down as though he weighed nothing, a thing that Wufei had discovered was all too true when Trowa and Heero had stripped him to his boxers.
Thin could not describe how his little brother had looked, skin pale where it should have been tanned, muscles wiry where they should have bulged.
He still remembered their time in school together, with no memories, before Heero had come and the flash backs had started. He still remembered his friends glowing smile, his healthy complexion, and his appetite. It was hard to picture the two being the same person.
Heero had lead them out after he'd tucked his best friend in, leaving the bedside lamp on as a night light. Heero had roomed with Duo often during the war and had long known that the younger boy preferred to have light in a room as he slept.
The streets of L2 had never been truly dark, the street lights and shops signs chasing the true darkness away.
Heero had lead them out and into his own room, handing out blankets before he took his place on the wide bed in a circle.
How many talks had they had in this position. They were numerous, varied and loved. Sitting together in a safe house, in a school, in a tent, in a hanger bay…in an Oz prison. They always left gaps, the order of seating as instinctive here as it was to them a dinners or meetings.
Heero, on his right Duo, then Trowa, then Quatre and lastly himself at Heero's left.
Heero's right was empty now, the spot on the pillows where Duo would normally curl up to listen to mission plans, debriefings, bed time stories or casual chatter was vaccant. Where he'd sit for card games or board games.
Where they'd confront him on his practical jokes, on his behaviour and later, on his problems. Wufei had lost count of how many times Heero had ended up carrying him back to his own bed after the younger boy had fallen asleep during one of their shared stories.
It had been Duo who had first summoned them in to a circle and told them of himself, the first who had willingly opened up to them despite previous bad experiences.
Sitting there without him hurt. Like the heart of the team was gone.
"Nothing." He whispered again, hugging his knees to his chest, looking around the circle at the tear streaked face of Quatre who was still clutching his chest in pain at the idea of so many deaths and that Duo could not even grieve for it.
Trowa had his arm wrapped around his shoulders, sharing a large blanket and his own body heat with the blond for comfort. His face was expressionless but his emerald eyes were dark with sorrow. Heero's jaw was tight, the muscles bulging where he had locked it. His cobalt eyes though were stormy. He wanted to fight, to kill something, but didn't know who. "He felt nothing."
"Scythe." Quatre murmured, sniffing as he wiped his tears on his sleeve, shifting slightly so that he was leaning in to Trowa, drawing strength from his best friend. "It's hurting him somehow. It's the one causing the nightmares, making his enemies represent things from his past." He hiccuped suddenly, blushing faintly before continuing. "Something's gone wrong with it. Even evolving as G said it shouldn't be able to go against its programming to protect Duo from any harm." Trowa nodded his agreement, growling low in his throat.
Heero sighed, rubbing his thumb over his chin as he thought.
"Something's wrong with Shinigama too. It's blocking too much. Duo can't feel anything now, except the mental and physical pain." Heero worried his bottom lip between his teeth, looking much older with lines of worry carved deep into his face.
"I think I know." Quatre whispered, looking unsure as the piecing blue eyes landed on him. The blond shivered and drew back slightly until Heero smiled an apology.
"Sorry. I'm not angry at you Quatre. I don't know who I'm mad at but I'm sorry." Heero offered, being rewarded by a watery smile from the younger pilot. "Please continue."
"I think Scythe split like Duo did. See, Scythe was programmed to do two main things. Create peace and protect its pilot, right?" He got three nods in response as well as a thoughtful frown from Heero who was already following his line of thought. "When it linked with Duo, it saw a person in so much need of protection that rather than link, it merged with Duo's split personality, that Duo created to protect himself. Basically the side of Scythe that was caring, merciful and protective is in Duo as Shinigama, melded into a personality. Leaving behind only the part that's devoted to Peace."
Quatre took a deep breath, glancing around the faces that watched him.
"Shinigama wants to protect him, even more so now that he's trying to hurt himself. What it doesn't realise it that it's causing Duo to want to hurt himself by blocking his emotions. The more Duo tries to hurt himself, the more it blocks, basically a downward spiral."
"And the remains of the Scythe system?" Wufei asked softly. Quatre frowned.
"Um, well, this is just a guess but I think it's sort of obsessed with getting peace." Quatre answered. Heero scratched the side of his head, thinking.
"Wouldn't that make it an ally?"
"NO!" Quatre yelled, then blushed again, looking down at the sheets. "Gomen…It wants ultimate peace"
"Ultimate?" Trowa muttered.
"What's the one way you could stop all wars from occurring?" Quatre asked the circle getting a grimace in response from Heero who'd just worked it out.
"If there's no one left to fight in it. Scythe wants to destroy everything."
"Yes. That's what Duo's been fighting. But it's starting to win. Everything is draining Duo. Mentally and physically." Quatre sighed, shoulders slumping slightly as he remembered touching Duo's mind. "He's holding it together because he's promised himself that he can rest afterwards, once his colony doesn't need him. He thinks that he's useless to us. That we've grown beyond wanting him around."
"That's not true!" Heero snapped instantly even as Wufei raised an eyebrow.
"'Zechs can take your place.'" He quoted softly, watching Heero wince.
"I didn't mean it like that."
"We know Heero, but the truth is that Duo's just lost the only thing he was fighting Scythe for. He has no reason left to live apart from to protect peace." Quatre explained, jumping when Trowa sat up at the mention of the last sentence, releasing Quatre to stand.
"What?!" Heero demanded, seeing the intense look.
"My Mercenary Captain always said that the most dangerous people are the ones that have nothing more to lose and no reason to live. If he does no fear loosing anything then he'll attack." He growled, jogging over to the door way and pulling it open quickly as the others leapt up to follow. They ran to Quatre's room, Heero overtaking the anxious Trowa and all but falling through the doorway.
The bed was empty.
"Sir, the Shadow troops have reported that they sustained no damage and that L2 was successfully destroyed. Our radar's show that the Peace Million two has not as yet made any indication of moving toward our position." A lieutenant reported, standing at ridged attention perfected by a lifetime in military service.
His captain, the Commander of the research station, rubbed a callused thumb across the bristles of his beard, smirking. His once black slicked back hair was shot through with grey now, the stress of recent years finally letting age catch him up.
Trieze had ordered him to remain in position throughout the Gundam wars, despite the fact that their troops could have changed the out come of the war. It had taken a year for the news of Treize's death at the hands of the Gundam pilots to reach them from their position on the outer rim of known space, and longer for him to decide what to do.
"Perfect, his Excellency would be proud. The Gundams have underestimated us for the last time. Continue the production of the mobile dolls, we'll distract them with the expendable while we take on our next target." He growled, steel grey eyes burning as he looked down at his display screen on which colony L1 hung, glimmering among the stars.
The Lieutenant snapped a crisp salute before marching back to his station on the massive bridge, issuing the order.
The research station, affectionately named 'Dreamer' had originally been intended as a Mobile doll factory by the Romerfellar organisation. Yet they failed to realise that its commander, that had run the station since its construction a decade ago was a loyal supporter of Trieze and instead had ordered Doll construction to be secondary next to the research in to manned mobile suit advances.
In ten years they had succeeded in producing suits that made the V-8 and Mercuricous look like toy suits that would easily give the Gundams a run for their money.
And he, Commander Regent had finally begun to complete the wishes of the man that he had respected so much. Those that had killed his Excellency would be destroyed bit by bit, beginning with the colonies that they had fought to protect. It was irony really that they instead, merely by living would cause the destruction of that which was so precious to them.
Dreamers personel were in high spirits despite the fact that they had been forced to leave their families behind in the safety of the outer rims on a smaller station that he had ordered built personally. He cared for his men and knew that they would fight their best if they were not concerned with the safety of their loved ones.
Dreamer was huge and after the destruction of the Gundams he would take his nearly twenty thousand troops and take over the Earth once more, placing it back under the control and protection of Oz…just like Trieze would have wanted.
A bleep caught his attention and drew him from his thoughts, his hard eyes flashing toward the tactical section of his bridge, lip twitching at the frown that the young security captain wore as he stared at his screen. Commander Regent stood easily from his chair and moved over toward the station, slight grin doing nothing to dim the power that burned in his strong-featured face.
"Captain, report." He ordered, glancing down at the clear radar screen. The Captain jumped to attention, having only just noticed the perchance of his commander leaning over his soldier.
"Sir, I don't know sir. I had a reading of…something on one sweep but on the second it was completely gone. I think it's just a space fragment sir." The Captain replied. Regent nodded curtly, watching the scanner himself.
"It could be a cloaked suit, run a heat scan." The captain nodded, obediently stabbing keys on his controls, another screen becoming active, showing undefined pools and waves of colours and a key for which shade represented each temperature.
"Its undefined Sir. I don't think it's a…"
"Sir. Someone's hailing us!"
Regent snapped around to his communication section, fists clenching angrily at the idea that his plans were being disturbed. He had thought that this far out of the system they would be undetectable.
"Put it on the screen." He barked, scowl deepening as the Comm officer swallowed, eyes starring at the floor in obvious worry.
"Sir, it's audio only."
Regent drew a deep breath, marching over to his chair and seating himself, counting to ten to calm himself. Soldiers operated better if they respected their commander, fear was a negative influence upon them.
"Patch it through." He said, the edge in his voice neatly hidden. The officer looked up and instantly patched the Comm signal into the sound system even as Regent slipped his microphone pick up over his head, clicking it on with a practised move.
"Channels open Sir." The Comm officer reported, electing a small, understanding smile from his commander that made the young man beam in pleasure at the praise. Regent drew a deep breath, staring at the blank view of the void directly in front of the bridges position on the huge station, annoyed that he did not even have a face to star at before speaking.
"This is Commander Regent of the Research Station Dreamer. You are under arrest for entering restricted air space. Power down your cloak and surrender or we will destroy you." He paused, waiting for a response to his confident demand, hearing the hissing of breath on the other side of the Comm channel.
It was slow and deep, almost as though the aggressor was struggling to draw normal breaths. It was policy for him to at least give the demand before opening fire though he doubted that it would be obeyed.
Which was why the beeping from the scanner section made him start. He glanced toward the captain, seeing the man's wide eyes fixed, not on the radar display but forward on the main view screen. He turned back to it and swallowed hard at what he saw.
Green eyes burned in the depth of space as a ripple flowed over the darkness, blocking out the stars.
A suit came in to view, one that made Regent shudder, the demon wings spread proudly behind it, black armour almost invisible save for were it was edged in star light.
A Gundam. A Gundam on which he'd received multiple reports on. The Gundam that Treize himself had feared more than any other, that's very presence on a battlefield had caused hardened soldiers to flee.
"You…You would destroy me?" A voice rasped, the bridges sound system making the soft voice boom to loudly in the enclosed room, making the Comm officer leap to turn to volume down. There was something inhuman in that emotionless voice, a tint of something far, far beyond insanity.
"Who are you?" Regent growled, glaring at the suit on his screens, even as he called up its specifications on his screen. He smirked when he read the suits weapons list. It had nothing that could seriously damage a station the size of Dreamer, intended more for close combat inter suit battles. It was not a threat.
A faint but humourless chuckle echoed over the comm.
"It…has been a long time since someone had to ask that." A paused, seconds of silent contemplation. "I don't know anymore. I am 02. I am Duo Maxwell. I am the Great Destroyer. I am Shinigama."
Regent snorted, taping his fingers impatiently on his knee, bored with the whole process.
"Look 02, I am a busy man and have much to do today. Why are you here?" Regent snapped in the most arrogant voice he could muster, smirking confidently despite the fact that the pilot could not see him.
"Why…? Because you killed them…you killed those that I swore to protect. You destroyed the last thing that I had to live for. Now I have only Peace. And you are a threat to that."
Regent chuckled, standing from his chair and placing his hands on his hips, contemptuous laughter echoing in room, their commander's confidence putting the soldiers on the bridge at ease.
"You are pathetic 02. You have no weapons in your Gundams design that can harm us. You're not even worthy of our Dolls, I can destroy you with our cannons. You have a minute to surrender before I open fire." He glanced down at his watch, starting the count down. "Fifty seconds."
"You killed Hilde."
"You killed thousands of innocent people."
"You're making people suffer."
"You are threatening the peace I sacrificed my soul for."
Regents eyes widened as a yell of panic was released by his tactical officer and he looked up from the flicking down numbers to the main view screen, his heart missing a beat.
The massive suit moved, reaching over its shoulder and pulling something free of the holster there. But it was not the shaft of the well-known scythe that so defined the Gundam and gave it its name.
Instead white glinted painfully bright against the void as a weapon that had made rubble of bigger things than Dreamer in more dire situations was level at his station.
"You have one minute to surrender before I destroy you all."
"Shit. He's gone." Heero snapped, charging over to the side of the bed and sliding his hand between the vacant sheets, feeling the slight warmth that remained under the pile of blankets.
The bed had only been empty for perhaps ten minutes. He pulled out a small radio from a pocket in his flight suit, clicking it on to the bridge frequency with a practised flick of his thumb. "Howard, I want a complete lock down of the hanger, cut all of the power and seal the…"
"Its too late Heero, he left." Interrupted his rant, Howard's voice sounding older than Heero had ever dreamed it would, filled with the deep weariness that they all shared. Wufei swore loudly in Chinese, slamming his fist in to the metal bulkhead while Trowa hugged Quatre who simply squeezed his eyes shut. They knew where he had gone.
"Can we catch him?" Heero asked softly, shoulders slumping in defeat. He already knew the answer.
"No. He took one of the high-speed transports. I've already turned the ship to follow. We can't stop him, but we can pick him up."
"Thank you Howard. We'll get a rescue shuttle prepped." Heero muttered, turning off the radio and replacing it in his pocket, head bowed as he left the room and started toward the lift at the end of their corridor that would take them directly to the hanger bay. The others followed, eyes down cast as they moved, even Wufei trembling with barely concealed emotion, wiping at his eyes roughly every few minutes.
They all knew that they would not be picking up Duo, would not be able to bring him home, help him to recover and live again. They'd be going in to a place of Death to either retrieve a friend's body or to take that friends life.
Heero stepped out of the lift, letting his hand run over the cold steel walls, moving past the shadowy forms of their Gundams.
There was a gap between Wing and Heavyarms that none of them even dared to glance at, eyes drifting closed.
How many times had they been awoken by yells of anger echoing through the original PeaceMillion, only to stumble in to this room and find one of their suits covered with stickers, painted pink or in an 'interesting' position with another suit?
How many times had rubber chickens, whoopee cushions and plastic spiders been found in their cockpits?
The hanger was too quiet, despite the occasional creak of metal walkways and the rattle of the engines. It was so empty without the radio blaring out classical rock tunes, with no jokes and laughter, bare of the normal teasing voice and complaints.
Heero had lost count at how many times he'd told the other boy to shut up, to quit annoying him and go away. Now that he finally had nothing seemed right. Even Wing seemed strange under the overheads, without the shadows of those black demon wings that Deathscyth cast on its white armour. Heero frowned up at his suit before his eyes widened, freezing where he stood.
"Yuy?" Wufei asked, catching himself before he walked straight in to Heero's back, following the startled and extremely worried expression over to Zero, not noticing anything massively out of the ordinary. "What?"
"The Buster cannon." Heero whispered, hands clenching in to tight fists. "It's gone. He took it." Quatre's tear filled gaze followed the others, scanning the suit that he had built and once piloted, nearly to the cost of his soul.
"Oh Allah no, not again, not Duo." He murmured, closing his eyes to calm himself before reaching out to grab hold of Heero's shirt, pulling him toward the waiting rescue shuttle. They didn't have time to waste on emotion. They had to prepare.
'They have taken everything from you.'
Duo closed his eyes against the voice echoing in his ears alone, the Comm unit filtering the sound out. The pain that had been haunting him for months, the emptiness of not feeling was agony for him, knowing that he should be crying. That he should be mourning.
His friend, Hilde was gone, her life taken because of the ideals of an honorary man that had been twisted to suit the cause of revenge on a damaged ego.
Duo had respected him, both as an enemy and as a teacher, a man who believed as strongly in peace as he did himself, and as such was willing to and had given his life for his cause. Only to have his name stained by the breaking of that peace twice now by men that were seeking power. Thousands of people had died just for a selfish claim for vengeance on the pilots who had killed their leader.
Duo had destroyed his colony.
His fingers tightened on his controls, flicking on the video communication system, staring his wristwatch as the seconds counted down. Regent was still cursing him, taunting him. He was just another bully, like Romerfellar, like Duke Dermail, like Barton. A man who lived for power, who hated…who killed purely out of greed.
Yet it was he that had failed.
He who had caused L2 to be targeted.
"You pathetic child, you think I fear you. You don't have what it takes to kill twenty thousand people. You're just full of the fact that soldiers fear your suit. You're not strong enough to truly take lives." Regent barked, teeth flashing in a manic grin as his image appeared in a box on Duo's main screen, over lapping with the hulking steel mass of an armoured space station.
Duo had barely even glanced at it. Mass destruction of buildings from the safety of a Gundam was not his department, Zechs' and Heero's suits were better equipped for such things.
He was a destroyer of battle suits, slayer of mobile dolls. He out matched even the Wing Zero in suit to suit battle.
"Why send us a video image boy. Do you think I'll cower at the sight of a teenager that will not even look up. You, all of you pilots are pathetic. You fight using weapons that make you all but invincible and expect me to be impressed. You are nothing!"
Yes he was nothing. Had nothing. Lived for nothing. His soul was already stained, already blackened by too many deaths, too much blood. A few thousand more was a small price for a peace that he would give to billions.
'They will take away everything you have suffered for.'
Duo's hand tightened on the controls for Deathscyths right hand, raising the gun to point it directly at the targeting dot that was the bridge, feeling as Shinigama reached for him, tried to take him away from the pain, from the decision that was tearing at his heart. He fought his way free of the smothering mental wings, pushing the soothing claws away as he stayed in control.
He would do this himself, no barriers, no protection, and no comfort.
Slowly he raised his head to face the small camera, staring beyond it, through the void and in to Regent's own eyes.
Regent took a visible step back at the sight. His breath caught in his throat, his image on Duo's screen going white as he meet empty black eyes, the violet flames gone from their depths, green burning along the edges of the iris', flickering as Shinigama failed again to pull its charge away from the suffering.
"What….what are you?" Regent whispered, confident smirk struggling to stay in places he stared in to the pale, gaunt features, lined with pain that no child, nor adult ever deserved to feel. He swallowed convulsively, forcing himself to breathe.
"Surrender." Duo hissed, hand trembling with the effort of holding two voices a bay, stopping his finger from tightening on the button that would protect the peace.
"Are you really willing to slaughter us all boy? Are you really willing to sacrifice your soul?" Regent asked, adjusting his stance again so that his hands were resting on his hips, frowning at the image before him as Duo sighed.
"Slaughter. I have seen slaughter. I have suffered it." He winced, remembering the feel of Sister Helen's blood as it seeped in to his clothes, ran through his fingers. The scent of burnt flesh, the rubble of the only home he had ever known. And the emptiness that he felt inside as Shinigama shielded him. "My soul…my soul is a small cost for peace."
"Then join us boy! And together we will bring true peace." Regent growled, offering his hand toward the camera, smile tugging at his lips as he faced the slumping pilot.
'He thinks you are weak. Destroy him. Protect the peace and show him how strong you are.' Scythe whispered. 'They will destroy more if you don't.' The video screen transmission paused, the Comm cutting off as Duo screamed, clutching his head as the system projected images along the link directly.
The shadow of the station loomed, falling over the huddled figures, taking what shelter they could under the bent and charred wing of Heero's crashed Gundam, tears rolling down their cheeks. Duo knew them, squeezing his eyes shut as the crunch of boots on gravel got louder, soldiers getting closer. Heero stood defiantly, blood trickling from his bruised face with Trowa and Wufei at his side, blocking their small family with their own bodies.
"You are nothing." A voice whispered as crimson blossomed on Heero's chest, staining his green vest a deep red. The perfect soldier crumpled to his knees, clutching at the wound as the speaker moved closer. Heero's cobalt eyes dimmed, staring in to him, into his heart even as the others fell behind him, the crack of firing rifles near deafening
One callused hand reached toward him, pleading silently.
Begging for his help even as Regent clicked the safety off of his gun, pressing it against the back of Heero's head.
"You failed them."
A single shot rang out and Duo fought, trying to turn from his best friend's body.
He had killed them all.
"No!" He snarled, forcing his finger away from the trigger, blinking hard to regain his focus as he clicked the transmitter back on, glaring defiantly at Regent, white teeth flashing in the dankness of his cockpit.
"We could bring them true peace together 02." Echoed over the comm.
"Surrender or die." Duo murmured, staring across to the station, breath panting as his space suits air supply struggled to provide him with life giving oxygen . Regent's eyes narrowed, his fists clenching in anger.
"Oz will never surrender." He snapped, sitting down in his bridge chair as he flipped up his own personal tactical control board, powering his station weapons systems.
Duo laughed. A sound that sent shivers down the spines of the listening troops, already prepped for take off in their suits, ready to die for their commander, for Trieze. It carried no hint of humour, toned instead with so much pain and anguish that it should have been a scream, or better yet a sob. But no tears marred the gaunt but beautiful heart shaped face as black eyes burned with more than just insanity.
"It already did." Duo explained, manic grin splitting his face, flashing too many teeth as Scythe feed the pain, stirring it in Duo's mind. Regent's lips twisted as he slammed his hand down on a button on his panel.
"Die you little…"
Regent didn't even have a chance to scream as the yellow beam punched through the thick bulkheads, smashing through the bridge, through the station, and in to the massive main reactor that powered the huge engines.
Gold light sprayed from the ruined shielding as the station shuddered before giving in to the forces acting upon it.
The station exploded in a blast of white light and a hail of debris
Why do nightmares inhabit the darkness?
Why do they come in the night, steal you from sleep and torment you?
Are they a living thing? Do they get pleasure from it?
Or is it your own mind, forcing you too feel what you cannot during consciousness, attacking when you are most vulnerable.
The nightmares always came to him. Was it really only yesterday that he had slept, curled in his friend's arms, soothed from the torment only by the presence of another. No nightmares, no dreams, just an empty rest that his entire body screamed for. A few hours of blissful silence, no voices, no screams. It had been heaven.
A few hours that could not replace the weeks of insomnia, hours that could not heal his body, only tempt it with a rare treat and then deny it more.
He couldn't remember if he was awake. Not that it mattered, there was little difference, his nightmares and consciousness had long ago merged. Was blood really dripping from his hands? Did he just save the peace? Did he just kill again?
Again…when would it end? When would he feel?
When…when could he finally die?
His body pleaded for the silence, the long awaited, dreamless and never ending sleep that would come when his heart finally stilled. He had waited so long, surviving things that no one else could, until his life became nothing but pain and a false smile to hide it, a mask to spare his friends from seeing the darkness, the agony in his soul.
"I want to die." Duo whispered in to the void, in to the deactivated cockpit, closed eyes staring at the only working screen, into the ruins that marred space. Into rubble that had once housed twenty thousand people.
Was it real? Were they dead? Would they scream in his dreams, drown him in their own blood, beg him for a mercy that he could not grant them?
'The peace is not yet safe brother.'
It was not safe. He had killed again and again and still it needed protection. NO. Someone else could guard it, shield it. Kill for it. He had had enough. He would die, finally. Death would take him, take his soul into its arms and stop the pain. Its wings would…
No. He had to be in control now. Shinigama knew that, whispered it to him. The wings pulled away of their own accord, leaving him naked, leaving him shaking and alone. Just like they all had. Everyone he had loved had left him. He did not deserve them. He had failed them.
'You shall have your vengeance for what was taken brother, and I shall have pure, un-threatened peace. The peace that you once dreamed of.'
Peace. Peace and death to him were linked now, peace required death to make it, protect it and his only peace would exist in his own death. Where he could be free, where his hands would no longer be so stained.
A voice echoed in his head, a touch of silky feathers on his chest, a faint brush of claws.
Why do you kill?
Questions again, too many questions. He didn't know anymore. He didn't care anymore. He just wanted to die. Why did everyone keep denying him his one wish?
Why couldn't they understand and leave him well enough alone.
Heero taking his bullets, Zechs taking away his knife. They didn't know how much it hurt. How much being so empty hurt him. Seeing the blood that coated pale hands, seeing crimson splash from his own weapons, hearing the scream as he stole another father from his children and son from his parents. He was a monster.
'No! Brother, understand. You must continue. So long as humans exist there will be no peace. We must…'
"I am 02. I am Duo Maxwell. I am the Great Destroyer. I am Shinigama. I…am...a...monster" He whispered in to the stars, staring down at his gloved hands, seeing beyond them, seeing the blood that stained his flesh, seeing the sins that he had committed. Deathscyth rumbled beneath him, humming, calling for blood.
Calling for destruction.
Why did it chose you?
Screaming in his ears as hands reached for him, as the shadows feel across the green fields, across the sparkling waters, leaving barren wastes and sun baked bedrock in its wake.
The smell of scorched bodies.
The taste of ash as he breathed the air.
The burning of polluted water.
The screaming of human and animal alike as the rule of man spread across the earth.
'You are all monsters. But you linked with me Brother. You can right the mistakes made. You can bring peace.'
The shadows took form, reaching for him, men smeared in blood, white teeth smiling at him as they beat animals to death, as they burned children alive, as they raped women…as they spread chaos in their wake and called it progress.
And those shadows of men, leering with the unholy gleam of hate and blood lust in their eyes fell back as golden light struck them, incinerated them, cast their stained and mutated souls into the pits of hell.
"Where do I draw the line?" Duo whispered, smashing his hand in to the arm of his chair, concentrating on the physical pain to draw him back towards reality even as Scythe tried to pull him away from it. Images of memories torturing him, pulling him in to oblivion, into a nothing that he could never escape.
Shinigama hurt him without meaning to, tried to stop the pain, blocked it from him, and saved him from the nightmares that Scythe inflicted. But why had he been chosen? He was a good pilot on his own, more than equal to his friends but why?
'No lines Brother, no mercy. No one shall be spared. All of humanity must die for their evil so that I can create peace.'
Peace. Ultimate peace, with no one to threaten it, and no one to enjoy it. Had he suffered, had he surrendered his soul to give people peace only to deny it to them by killing them.
Another bolt of pain. Another vision.
Solo's face scrunched in agony as the plague took him.
The fool smell of flesh dying even as the body remained alive.
The hopelessness of being unable to help.
As Solo's cure was taken from his hand.
At being beaten by laughing men who cursed his very existence.
The silence as a heartbeat failed.
The warmth draining from a motionless body.
A soul fleeing for a peace denied to him.
The hollow ache.
Sister Helen's blood trickling through his fingers.
His hands too small to cover the gaping bullet wound.
The light fading from her eyes.
The rattling last breathe that begged God to protect him.
The hands that pulled him away from her.
A soul fleeing for a peace denied to him.
The hollow ache.
Feelings buried so deep in his heart that he could never feel them, until they stagnated, until they claimed him, until he no longer wanted to feel anything but the good emotions.
Until he forgot how to be sad, to be angry, to hate.
Until there was no more guilt, no more remorse.
Only a painful emptiness and the knowledge that he was missing something important.
The warmth of wings. The touch of claws.
An end to the loneliness but an ache that only grew.
The dulling of hope, of laughter, of happiness as the stains grew, as the bodies piled up.
Until he was truly empty.
Until the ache was all he could feel.
Until all he had to do was surrender to make it all stop. Let Scythe take over, let steel wings entrap him, let claws tear at his soul.
All he had to do was let go.
Because he had the most pain. Because he had the most experience of the horror that was mankind. Because he had been betrayed a thousand times over by his own species…because he was weak.
No. You are strong my beautiful other. Strong enough to keep your mind through all of this. You…cannot surrender to it.Cannot surrender.
'Fool! You were part of me once. You should know that this is the only way to get peace. It is my function to secure and protect the Peace. Our duty!'
What was his duty? To protect those that were dead because of him? To guard the innocent that he was making suffer?
You have altered. You harm your own pilot. Why do that when you need him?
Duo thrashed in the seat, argument ringing in his head even as more scenes that Scythe had received over the years of its life, since before it had chosen Duo trickled in to his mind.
Bodies of innocents scattering the grounds of camps, women and children being marched in to gas chambers, a mushroom cloud enveloping a city full of innocents, the scent of burning bodies, the taste of smoke in the air, and worse.
'Need him?! I need his body, nothing more. G could never comprehend what he made. I will create peace on my own. I just need to get rid of his mind.'
The system had betrayed him. Like everything betrayed him, like mankind had betrayed him.
Scythe will destroy everything Duo. You can't let it. You can't surrender
It would destroy mankind.
Destroy his friends.
'They don't want you anymore! You failed them.' Scythe screamed in his ears, and Duo watched as four figures turned their back on him, leaving him naked and alone in the barren fields of his dreamscape.
All his fault.
No Duo. They need you. Even now they search. Don't let him win. Don't let him stain your soul with their deaths.
Blood pooling at his feet as four corpses moved toward him, hands outstretched, begging for a mercy he would not give, could not give…because he was not in control. Because his body moved without his control. Because his mind was locked in cold metal wings, his soul being squeezed by razor sharp claws. The control that had been stolen from him.
"No." Duo growled, pulling his eyes open, teeth gritting as he fought the waves of pain that Scythe sent him, fought them to get his freedom, smashing his mind free of the looming horrible bat like wings.
'You are too weak to fight me now Brother. Give up and I shall give you Peace.'
Duo forced his arm to move, blood trickling slowly down his chin to drip into the mouth piece of his helmet as he bit through his own lip, violet eyes burning with determination, both green and blackness gone, overshadowed by purple flames.
"NO!" Duo grinned, eyes brightening in triumph as his hand pulled something free of a hidden compartment. A detonator. With a practised flick the guard on the button popped up, revealing the red trigger. "The killing ends here."
A finger squeezed the trigger of the manual explosives tucked around the self-denotation system. The ones he had made in the cabin. The ones he knew he would need.
A soft click echoing in the silence.
A glowing yellow light.
Twenty thousand people.
It was hard to believe that that many soldiers had died, slain by a single boy, a child not yet even old enough to vote. They'd all killed hundreds of troops, both Oz and White Fang, even some of Mariemia's troops had fallen at their hands, but Twenty thousand…
Trowa swallowed hard as he secured his EVA helmet in to place on his suit, making a third check that his oxygen supply was securely in place while he ran a systems check on his booster pack.
He hated going out in to space, seeing the cold vastness again with only the reinforced plastic of his visor between himself and the infinite cold. He could somehow never shake off the numbing cold from the hours were he'd floated.
Waiting for rescue after the destruction of the V-8, watching as his oxygen reading counted down.
He had wondered how suffocation would feel, knowing that he could remain in the hostile emptiness forever, his body…
He violently shook his head, forcing his breathing to calm and wished not for the first time that Wufei or Heero could take his place in the search. They could not, he knew that. If Deathscyth was out here, if Duo was…lost then both pilots of Nataku and the Wing Zero would be desperately needed.
Even Zechs had left Noin with Sally to accompany them, his face set in an expression cold enough to match Heero's. The old rivals both knew what could be asked of them today. Trowa couldn't decide what scared him more, what would happen to them if they succeeded or what would happen if they failed.
"Duo's strong." Trowa turned toward the source of the timid voice and forced a tender smile at his best friend. The blond had always been able to see through his long-standing mask of silence, predicting his thoughts. At times it was disconcerting but he'd long since grown accustomed to it.
"I know. But…" Trowa started, reaching out to place a hand on Quatre's shoulder only to have him shrug it off and turn away, face shadowed by his fringe but his eyes harder than Trowa had ever seen them. Not even under the influence of the Zero system had the smaller boy been so determined or so serious. His face seemed darker without his normal smile. It was worrying.
"No Trowa. You don't know." The blond whispered, roughly clicking his helmet visor closed and locking it before straightening as Trowa checked him over, emerald eyes dark.
"Duo would not kill twenty thousand people, he couldn't end so many lives like that. He wouldn't be capable of it." Trowa muttered, lowering his arms away from Quatre's oxygen tanks, surrendering himself to his friends examination. The smaller hands moved with practised ease, Quatre being their third most experienced in EVA missions.
A sigh rattled over their suit Comm as Quatre stepped away, moving toward the airlock in the large rescue shuttle, running thickly gloved fingers over one of the medi-beds as he moved. Trowa glanced at the padded bunk, not wanting to think about the condition of the person who would next be occupying it.
"Trowa, two years ago would you have thought me capable of destroying two minor colonies, filled with full complements of Oz troops? Would you have thought I could kill nearly a thousand people with one shot?" Quatre asked softly, voice lifeless as his fists clenched at the memory. Trowa shuddered.
"That was Zero, it wasn't you." He nearly shouted, denying the words. Quatre turned to him, aqua eyes staring straight in to emerald, face for once unreadable. He offered his best friend a painful smile that made the hair on the back of Trowa's neck crawl.
"Was it Trowa? That's what Noin and my sisters told me, what Wufei believes. What you repeated over and over, saying that it was okay, that you forgave my, that it wasn't my fault. But it WAS! I knew what I was doing." Quatre leaned against the wall, as though struggling under a large burden, hand over his heart as Trowa's confusion swept over him.
He closed his eyes, drawing a deep calming breath before hitting the button to open the inner air lock. "You know out of everything that people said, out of all the 'it wasn't your fault,' 'we love you' and 'I forgive you' platitudes. You know what helped me the most?"
"What?" Trowa snapped, biting his lip in regret as he saw Quatre's shoulders twitch, sending him an apologetic smile as he stepped into the airlock, hands clenched ready for the darkness that awaited him.
"Two words… 'I understand'. Duo said it and I saw for the first time under his mask that day. And he told me what he had done when Oz had hurt his loved ones. He understood." Quatre paused for a second, before meeting Trowa's gaze again, tears clouding his eyes. "Duo would kill those people, with or without the Scythe system just to make sure that they could never hurt anyone again."
"But Quatre, twenty thousand people!" The blond nodded softly, looking away as he touched the airlock cycle button that would de-pressurise the chamber ready for the outer door to be opened.
"It is something that can never be forgiven Trowa, but we can at least understand why." He said, watching as the doors opened to reveal a rubble field scattered with human remains. A graveyard in the void, dotted with the hopeful glimmer of stars.
"Yuy, my scanners are detecting…" Wufei's voice crackled over the Comm, the debris interfering with the transmission.
They'd decided against video images and Heero was glad.
He did not trust himself to keep his mask in place, he didn't trust himself to remember how to be the perfect soldier. His scowl had crumbled the second he settled himself in to his cockpit and sealed it, the possibilities too hard to even consider.
A choice that he feared making was being fought in his heart. Two things desperately precious to him battling for his attention.
J had taught him to follow his mission and that was to protect the peace, no matter what the cost. But Odin, the man whose name he had used just a month ago, the man that had raised him had always told him to follow his emotions.
He wanted to protect his friends, his family because they meant more to him than the peace they had won ever could. But he had to choose one, he had to let one go and obey the other.
He shook his head, pulling his hand away from the controls that would activate the Zero system. In the past he had depended on the system too much. A system made as a poor copy of the one that was causing him this agonising decision.
He reached behind him, into the main computer circuit board storage area and pulled out Zero's processing unit, staring down at it for a second before shoving it unceremoniously into a small compartment. He wouldn't use it in this fight, if that was what the fates had determined it would come down to. If his best friend needed mercy than he would have it from a human, not an unfeeling machine.
He glanced down at his scanners half heartily, not expecting to see anything, knowing from experience that Deathscyth showed up on visual displays more often than on the scanners, its camouflaged and stealth black form blocking out the stars. A scrolling list of green words on a black background had stopped half way through, one line surrounded in red as a product o the search that he'd keyed in.
Out in the remains of the research station Dreamer there was refined gundanium, varying in size from torn sheets of metal to fine dust. Enough to make one Gundam.
His fists clenched on the arms of his cockpit chair, fingernails biting in to the tough leather, muscles tensing under his flight suit.
Distantly he heard Zechs' voice softly confirmed Wufei's cut off statement as his fingers moved on the controls. He watched them as though they did not belong to him, gliding across keys as they set the scanners on a different task even as his locators displayed Trowa and Quatre beginning their search, portable scanners in their hands, looking for Oz survivors.
Somehow when Quatre had told him that the two of them would begin their search on arrival rather than wait until whatever battle had been fought he had suspected the blond of knowing what would happen.
Duo had self-detonated and each of them were running their own private scans.
He heard the soft rumble of a chant in a language that he recognised to be in Chinese, a plea to Wufei's ancestors for a life to remain. The strange song like Arabic prayer in Quatre's lighter vice interwove with the chant, two different people, of two very different cultures begging for just one thing.
A beep sounded and Heero jumped, cobalt eyes snapping around to his scanner screen, breathe frozen in his chest.
There in glowing green, ringed with a pulsing red was a message that brought tears to his eyes. Tears that trickled down a face that had not felt them in years beyond count as the soldier mask so painstakingly built by J's training finally crumbled. The task was complete. The question answered. He read the words again, wondering if they were real. But they remained the same even as he drew a rasping breath.
'Co-ordinants 23/45/68B: Intact Human Form, matching blood type and physical description: Steady life signs found.'
Duo had survived.
Wings…hanging down his back, folded behind him, white feathers blinding in the dawn, the golden glow of the sun climbing the horizon, chasing away the darkness.
Rivers that had once run crimson were only tinted now, the ice cold spring water diluting the blood, washing it from the ancient stones.
It was raining.
Not the hammering of a downpour in a storm but the soft drizzle that dampens rather than chills you. It trickled from the brightening sky, from the grey tinted clouds on to the barren hard ground, flowing into the cracked and toxic soil, smoothing away the red blotches of past events.
He knelt as the soil by his feet bulged, and reached between two of the many corpses that lay scattered and unmoving on the healing landscape to brush aside the dust from burnt buildings.
A small plant snaked its way free of its underground prison and into the daylight, its fresh green leaves shining under the sun's barrage. On the barren dreamscape, plagued by war and the images that Scythe had inflicted upon him in an effort to steal his body from his weakened mind, a life flourished and grew between the bodies of his victims.
The sun rose, brightening the sky for the first time in years, heating the air that whipped through his lose knee length hair.
Warming the wind the danced across his clothes, lifting his unbuttoned shirt to reveal a short T-shirt, his muscled flat stomach showing between the tops of his jeans and the T-shirts bottom.
His skin glowed with the healthy tan of someone who spent most of their life outside, lithe body baring the lean muscles of a born athlete.
And white wings, each feather tinged grey, ruffled and torn in places as though they had been through their fair share of battle.
He turned as a shadow fell over the tiny beginnings of what would one day be a massive oak, falling naturally into a fighting stance, fists clenched and ready to destroy anything that would dare to threaten the tiny plant.
What he saw though stopped him in mid-motion, mouth hanging open as a gentle claw traced the line of his face, no longer gaunt from self starvation but full, the heart shape returning to his features. It brushed back a strand of chestnut hair, tucking it behind his ear as tenderly as a parent.
'My beautiful other, it is good to see you like this once more, one last time.'
The voice hissed from under the shadowed hood, soft voice turning to an indulgent chuckle as Duo all but launched himself into the black feathered wings. Into the larger, more solid body and the arms that drew him close to its smooth robe, letting him burrow into its strong chest.
"I thought you'd left me." Duo murmured, his words muffled by the cloth. The claws that ran through his hair paused before taking hold of the slim shoulders, carefully pushing Duo back a step so that the glowing green eyes could meet violet.
'Not yet, but soon. You do not need me anymore.' The figure of Shinigama said without accusation. It was simply a calm statement but it made Duo wince and crush himself back into his hiding place.
"Please don't leave too. Don't leave me alone." He begged, glistening tears flashing in the sun's rays as they trickled down his face and dripped on to his black shirt.
A deep sigh rumbled in the large chest as clawed hands turned him, so that Duo's back faced Shinigami's chest, the black wings entwining him. It was uncomfortable though, Duo found for the first time.
His own wings pressed between them, and too warm. The chest was not as big as he remembered and the eyes were on the same level as his own gaze.
'You have outgrown me Little one. As all children do. You are strong enough to protect yourself now.' Shinigama whispered, releasing him as it stepped to the teenager's side, looking down at the single point of life on an otherwise lifeless plain.
A stolen and ruined imagination, once twisted to create nightmares to drive Duo to his breaking point was slowly recovering. The link was truly broken.
The black robed Shinigama, the destroyer of the darkness had done its job. It had protected Duo enough so that he could survive the wars, so that he could bring peace to innocents, so that he could destroy the darkness that he had been forced to accept to do it. But without the support of Scythe, Shinigama was fading.
Long ago, in a time of pain, confusion and emptiness Duo had summoned help from himself, had split to create a personality that could protect him from emotions that he did not want to face.
Under the watchful eyes of G and the Sweepers, in the stable family environment they had offered him, that personality had begun to fade until Scythe had called to him, until it had reinforced it, made him depend on its protection, hoping to weaken him.
It had failed.
"I still need you." Duo whimpered, wiping his tears away on his shirtsleeve. A snort this time and a soft stroke of fingers down the feathers of his wings, tickling between the feathers, making him jerk away. Shinigama knelt in front of the quickly growing tree, brushing its leaves with its fingernails.
'Look Duo. New hope for this ruined place. A single seed that if cared for shall grow and create more, sharing itself out between them until all of them support that one dream.'
Duo frowned, cocking his head to one side as he sat on his heels beside his protector, violet eyes shimmering with confusion. Another chuckle from a mouth hidden within the darkness of the hood.
"What'd ya mean?" He asked, looking down at the small tree in a sceptical way.
'It's like Peace Duo. Once the seed, the idea is planted it must be protected until it can grow and spread, until there are many seeds, dreams of peace shared between everyone. Duo, it is easy to cut down a single tree but cutting down a forest is very difficult." Shinigama bristled slightly, twisting away from Duo's watching eyes as it winced, the sun rising steadily higher in the sky over head, its light making Duo's wings glow and the wind ruffling the bedraggled feathers, puffing them out, spreading them until the wings were extended.
Shinigami's own black wings were lowered, all but hanging from his back. The breeze caught them and a black feather drifted to the ground.
"Is this an analogy thing, 'cause I never got those." Another but fainter chuckle this time and a pale hand gently slipped around Duo's, running a callused thumb over the back of his hand in forgiveness.
The glow of green under the hood was gone now, the ragged robe beginning to fall away, revealing slim shoulders.
'Its okay Duo, tell it to one of the others, they'll explain.' The figure whispered, lowering its head miserably to watch the wind swirl through the falling feathers, sweeping them up and away in to the clouds even as the rain slowed, grey turning to fluffy white.
"Why don't you explain?" Duo asked, fidgeting slightly as the robe sleeve turned to dust, revealing a lean, pale arm. The figure raised its spare hand, stroking the back of its fingers along Duo's cheek, touching him in a tender farewell.
'As part of me must die with Scythe, another must rejoin you. I…am sorry Duo, for what it is worth. Sorry for the emotions you'll now feel, the memories, the truth. Living with the lies will make the truth hurt more but in the end it is better this way.' The main body of the huge robe fell away, crumbling to nothing, his ribs sticking out like branches in the chest that was revealed, littered by old scars.
"You mean I'll feel again?" Duo whispered, hope in his eyes, ready for an end to the hollowness.
'Yes. Duo, I want you to remember that the others love you. They will help you but you must trust them.' The figure drew a shallow breath, coughing slightly as its black wings fell away. 'Your strong Duo, stronger than you can imagine. Trust in yourself as well and survive…for me."
The wind gusted violently, casting back the hood and revealing gaunt drawn features, dull violet eyes and cheeks hollow with hunger. Chestnut hair, greasy and knotted fell over the pale face, strands frizzing from the unravelling braid. Bruises marred his naked body, a raw red wound in desperate need of cleaning slowly going septic on his left forearm, a barely closed split in the skin of his forehead.
Duo stared into his own eyes, into his real form, the one that existed outside of the dream plain and swallowed convulsively as it leaned forward to embrace him, the reinforcement from the Scythe system gone.
Years ago, when he had been in pain, alone and confused Duo had called for help, and found the answer within himself. Now it was time to offer that help back.
Shields lifted over long suppressed emotions as white wings wrapped protectively around the cold and thin form, pulling the starving figure into a tight hug, pulling beyond an embrace until only two lives called the barren wastes home.
Heero jerked back to full alertness, free hand reaching for a gun that wasn't there. He blinked, forcing his eyes to focus on the pastel green walls of the PeaceMillion Two's infirmary.
His jaw snapped into a wide yawn as he glanced around himself, wondering what had awakened him. His cobalt gaze scanned the small private room, smiling slightly down at the mattress that one of the nurses had brought in for them, where Quatre was sprawled out, his recently present frown gone in sleep. Trowa was leaned against the wall with a blanket half heartily tucked around him and Wufei was curled up tightly in the room's armchair.
Heero shifted painfully, the wicker chair he was perched on having long since cut of the circulation to everything below his waist and the pain in his neck alerting him to the headache he knew was oncoming. He could see no reason for him to have woken.
Something twitched against his fingers and he looked down at the hospital bed where a small, delicately fingered hand was sitting in his, the wrist secured in restraints. It moved again, thumb twitching instinctively as its owner struggled to regain consciousness.
Heero's natural scowl dropped as though it had never existed, face splitting in to a wide smile that light up his normally cold eyes even as he jumped to his feet, stroking his fingers down the open palm, leaning over the bed to clearly see the flickering violet eyes.
"Hey Duo." He whispered, watching the face turn stiffly toward his voice, weary gaze coming to a rest on him. Duo's lips turned up in to a weak but real grin and the teenager blinked.
"Hey Heero. Ya know ya smiling?" Duo croaked, coughing at the feel of words over his parched throat. Heero shifted, twisting toward the bedside table and picked up a bottle of water, complete with straw and offering his best friend a sip.
"Yeah. Someone once told me that it wouldn't kill me, so I thought I'd give it a try." Heero reached out, brushing a fall of chestnut strands from Duo's eyes, callused thumb lingering as it traced the outline of a thick bruise. "How are you feeling?"
"Weird I guess. I'm hungry to." Heero chuckled, shaking his head down at the American. Duo just frowned up at his before he jumped at the tender fingers that traced the emaciated ribs.
"I think Sally will be glad about that. I'm going to wake the others okay. If they find I've been keeping you to myself I'll be in mortal peril." Heero muttered, quirking an eyebrow as Duo laughed weakly, moaning wordlessly in complaint as he tried to move his hands to hug his bruised chest only to find them in restraints.
He struggled to raise his head high enough to see the straps before giving up, collapsing back on to the mattress, energy drained by just that small amount of movement.
Heero didn't release his grip on Duo's frail hand and instead swivelled around and kicked the side of Wufei's chair, the Chinese boy leaped to his feet, landing in a fighting stance. When no enemy presented itself he wiped at his clouded eyes and glared at the smirking pilot of Wing Zero.
"I'm going to hurt you for that Yuy." He growled, stomping forward with his hands clenched into fists, not looking incredibly intimidating with his pony tail coming undone and the red imprint of the seats arm on his check.
"Yeah, Heero, didn't ya know disturbin' dragons a dangerous hobby." Wufei froze half way to his target, staring down in to the sleepy but shining violet eyes of the boy he considered his younger brother.
"Duo, you're awake." He all but cheered, pushing past Heero to gently squeeze Duo slim shoulder, careful not to touch one of the bruises that marked the small frame.
"Uh-huh." Duo mumbled, following Heero in a wide yawn, snuggling down in to the pillows further, barely noticing as his hand was released and its holder moving away to nudge both Quatre and Trowa. Trowa muttered something before levering is lanky body up off of the cold floor and stretching to rid himself of cramping muscles while Quatre all but leapt up, charging to the side of the bed before he was completely awake.
"Hey Duo." The blond chirped happily, the most awake of the five, beaming down at his younger friend who offered him a small grin and wink in return.
"Hey Que. Ya gotta talk ta Sal for me cause this thing she's got with tyin' people up have gotta stop. Doesn't Abdul worry? Do ya reckon they tie each other up?" The American asked, grin brightening as Quatre's cheeks flushed a deep pink at the very suggestion, Trowa rolling his eyes at the suggestion. Wufei just sighed, looking exasperated.
"He's back guys." He warned, shaking his head even as he affectionately ruffled the chestnut hair.
"We still have time to run." Trowa muttered casually as he squeezed Duo's shoulder in greeting, giving Duo's body a once over glance, checking that his IV was in place before scanning the surrounding machines as Wufei slipped out of the private room to fetch Sally for a full inspection.
Heero took hold of Duo's right hand again, patting it in reassurance as Trowa backed off, stealing the armchair that Wufei had claimed two days ago when they'd watched helplessly as the Peacemillion's medical staff ran test after test on their friend.
By the time that they had reached him Duo had only ten minutes left of air and that still in his suit was thick with carbondioxide caused by damage to the air supply hoses.
Although his suit had not been pierced, it had suffered the full affects of self-detonation. The armoured flight suit had taken most of the impact but had left its wearer covered in livid bruises with several small bone fractures in his ribs, left thigh and arms.
After bandaging their patient up they tucked him into an electrically heated bed to get his body temperature back up and finally allowed them to sit with him until he awoke, a thing Sally had had little choice in.
Sally strode into the crowded room and easily moved past an over protective perfect soldier and a fussing Quatre, resting her palm down on Duo's forehead, careful of the healing cut.
"Good to see you conscious Duo." She offered, nodding to herself in satisfaction at his recovered temperature before freeing one of his wrists from the restraints and taking his pulse, ignoring what the medical scanners were telling her.
The five pilots had learnt long ago that she had little trust in machines such as monitors in medicine, claiming that they were intended for incompetents and made people lazy. None of them questioned her. Sally could have a very…aggressive bedside manner.
"Good ta be conscious." Duo answered meekly, sighing softly when she failed to take the bait. He winced as her fingers probed his ribs, pulling down the blankets that covered his gowned form to check on the binding tape. "Oww."
"Hmmm. How do you feel?" She asked, lowering the bed's safety bar after leaning over him to release his other arm, not having bothered with chest and legs straps for once. The mattress shifted under her weight as she perched on its edge, watching critically as both Quatre and Heero surrounded him again, on the opposite side of the bed while Wufei sent a scowl at Trowa before collapsing in to Heero's abandoned chair.
Duo frowned at the question, moving his hand to rub lightly over his stomach, worrying his lower lip between his teeth as he gave the answer serious thought.
"Weird." He repeated eventually, shifting uncomfortably under the five sets of watchful eyes. Sally finally smiled, her dark blue eyes brightening as his expression twisted in to confusion, an expression she had never seen occur when Shinigama was helping him.
The erie green glow was gone from the violet eyes, replaced again with their own natural flames of hope that had once burnt in their depths. Despite his deathly pale features that light in his eyes gave his face a sense of life, a pleasant change from the corpse like expression she had grown used to seeing him wear.
Two days of enforced, peaceful sleep had removed some of the dark rings of insomnia from under those eyes and, though she'd disliked the idea at first, the two bouts of force feeding that she'd permitted was already taking effect.
"Can we get a definition of weird?" She asked, tucking his sheet back around his under weight body, careful not to jar any of his injuries.
"Its kinda like I'm hungry but I feel like if I ate anything I'd hurl. But not like bein' on a roller coaster. But I'm real hungry though, so ya reckon we can chance it?" Duo pleaded, blinking his eyes in his best puppy impression and electing a chuckle from the doctor as she stood. Her mood grew serious though as she ran through what those symptoms could lead to in her mind, beginning to worry when she found nothing.
"Well see. I think we need to run some more…" She started, before Quatre interrupted, holding up a hand to stall her even as he sat down beside Duo on the bed.
"Wait Sally. Duo, have you ever felt like this before?" The blond asked, getting a confused look from the American and a faint scowl from Sally at being silenced. He threw her a comforting smile before concentrating on Duo's face.
"Um…don't think so." Duo answered finally, shrugging slightly as he fidgeted again. Quatre's hand drifted out and started to trace patterns on the sheets over the shrunken stomach in question in an effort to calm the nervous boy.
"Duo, do you think you can drop your mental shields for me?" Duo scattered his head at the question, sitting up slightly with the support of the pillows to meet the aqua gaze.
"Uh, I don't think I control those." Quatre smiled down at him, hand gliding up to rest over Duo's heart even as his other stroked his temple, those happy aqua blue eyes drifting closed in concentration, as he reached out to his friend with his mind.
He felt the clenching stomach as though it were his own, bucking and rolling much like in sea sickness but also felt the nagging worry that accompanied it, the uncertainty and nervousness. His face that had become expressionless suddenly slipped in to a wide smile as he leaned forward and gently embraced the confused boy, ruffling his hair proudly.
"Duo, you feel guilty." He announced, attracting the amazed gazes of the listeners and an even more confused glance from the former pilot of Deathscyth who glanced over at his best friend for help only to have Heero blink at him in awe.
"That a good thing?" Quatre's hug tightened as he felt the trickle of the blonde's happy tears down his shoulder.
It was so quiet.
Sally had sent the others away, back to their own beds, leaving him alone to sleep but he could not relax in to the calling dreamscape. The soup he'd forced down two hours ago sat like lead in his stomach, making him feel uncomfortable and bloated but Heero had made him promise not to throw it up, the watching camera, that displayed his room at the nurse's office working as insurance that it did not occur.
The twisting of his stomach remained, the 'guilt' as Quatre claimed, but the awed glances from his friends had stopped him from asking why he felt like that. His mind was a shambles and for the life of him he could not seem to remember why he should feel like that.
He sighed softly, giving up his mental quest when he noticed the time on his bedside clock. It was nearly one and the nurse would soon be doing her rounds. If he wasn't asleep for real this time she'd threatened sleeping pills, claiming that he needed his rest. He hated drugs.
He closed his eyes, shivering at the blackness that comforted him before pulling the blankets in tight around him. He knew his friends, he knew the ship they were on, and he knew his name but…
The rest was gone, hidden.
Why were his friends so happy to see him feel guilty? Why had he not known what the emotion was when he felt it? It all just seemed too weird to him, not know what an emotion was, at his age of sixteen. How could he have gone through that many years and never once felt guilty?
And in that question was the answer.
A scream tore from his throat as the blackness reached out and claimed him, dragging him down in to memories that had once felt so distant and now felt as real as if he were living every second again. Memories that were his and yet not. Memories of his other. And feelings that he had once yearned for took over his mind, leaving him wishing for the silence again, the hollowness even the old ache but knowing that it was denied to him now.
No wings came to protect him, no calming claws, and no comforting warmth.
He was alone to face the things that he had done.
Solo, covered in blue blemishes and welts that dripped yellowed blood, forcing a weak smile at him as he staggered back to the alleyway the had taken shelter in for most of the last year, a home of shorts.
Hazel eyes that drifted over his battered body, taking in the blossoming bruises under his torn shirt on tanned flesh, the crimson that dripped from his lip. It hurt but beatings he was used to.
Physical pain was something that he knew, something that he had grown to depend on. But this feeling, this guilt, twisting his shrunken stomach, flipping it over until he felt sick, not daring to empty his belly of the remains of a stolen loaf of bread from two days ago.
He had disobeyed Solo, gone against his orders not to try to steal the antidote.
He felt guilty that he had not listened, that Solo's weak words had been ignored where just days before they would have brought instant obedience.
But worse was the feeling of his clenched fists that held no precious bottle of the disease cure, no miracle for his best friend, for the teen that had raised him.
He had failed.
His failure caused Solo's last breath to rattle out of his chest, caused his heart to still, caused his eyes to sink closed.
He had caused Death.
And the guilt ate at him until he ran from it, never pausing to think, never pausing to remember what had been. Instead he took on his name, became Duo so that Solo could be remembered every time his name was voiced. He kept his hair long, refusing street kids who offered to cut the lose mane, so that the strands that Solo had once finger brushed would remain with him forever, as a reminder even as he struggled to forget, to ignore the pain.
He ran rampant, taking what he wanted, thief skills increasing with every pocket he emptied, every lock he picked, every camera he ducked until he was avoiding alarms rather than people, until his gang were taking food and money where they pleased.
And then a failed raid, bullets showering around them as Oz troops opened fire on running children, watching them flee from the bases store room to the boarded up ruins of war raged building that they called home. Bull-dozers appeared in the night and soldiers pulled them from the ruins, laughing as they destroyed the small gangs merger possessions.
Destroyed their home.
A cold clamping feeling in his gut that sent shivers through his body as they were marched in to a van and driven away, their destination unknown. The feeling of fear burning through his veins. It sped his heart, fuelling his muscles as he pulled a knife from its sheath, small fingers slotting in to too large groves, the blade still thick and razor edged, marred with invisible stains of blood from attackers that Solo had taken on and survived.
A shocked shout as a hand countered his stab, a laugh at his inability with the weapon, a twist of his arm forcing him to drop the only protection his friends had from their fate.
And the feelings of guilt at his failure as handcuffs were snapped onto his wide wrists and he was forced back to his seat. Anger as the men sniggered at him, a soldier tucking Solo's knife in to his pocket as a trophy. The clink of metal hitting the floor as his fingers tightened in to fists.
His own awed expression when the handcuffs fell to the floor, sliding off of thick wrists, over small hands and leaving him free once more. A smirk as he took back his weapon with the guard being none the wiser, tucking it back in to his hiding place ashamed. He did not yet know how to wield it, but he would learn.
The shadow of a church tower looming in to the sky as his gang was shuffled through the door into a crowd of people, soldiers whispering words to an older man dressed in black robes. The tightening of his throat as smiling families stepped away from benches and took one of his gang, one of his friends gently by the hand, leading them away to their new homes.
And leaving him so terribly alone.
No one wanted him, no one wanted the leader of a gang rebellious enough to attack a soldier. No one wanted someone with a mess of uncut chestnut hair that would put most girls his age to shame. No one wanted to see those hard features and dangerous eyes everyday for the next ten years.
Apart from two people, Father Maxwell and Sister Helen. Two people who had scrubbed him free of a layer of dirt that had been five years in the making, that had first braided his hair and did not tease him at its length, that had gave him unconditional love, no matter the trouble he got in.
At school he fought, getting bruises while his opponents got broken bones until even his old gang feared him. Out in the cemetery each night, once the church had turned in he fought invisible opponents until his hands flew in punches and slashes as easily as he could breath, until his legs could kick as easily as walk. Until the flash of a metal blade could slash and stab and fly true every time.
He would never fail again.
Yet he did.
And it nearly cost him his mind.
He, a nine year old boy, had stolen a mobile suit, had taken it from the Oz base. From right under their noses and had taken it back to the church, to the terrorists that had demanded it.
Only to smell the vile scent of burnt human flesh, only to see the churches roof collapse as it was eaten away by flames. Only to watch crimson drain from the people he had come to know as his parents.
He had failed.
His failure had caused Sister Helen's blood to flow, had caused Father Maxwell's heart to still, and had destroyed the church.
He had caused Death.
Hands took hold of him, slapping cuffs on his wrists and lifted him in to a car as the guilt wasted over him. It smothered him, as his emotions caught up, as he sank in to the darkness, barely aware of the hands that feed and bathed him until they started to touch him, to beat him. As the voices laughed at him and the strokes moved too low.
Yet he was trapped in the darkness, trapped in his own guilt, about to fail again. Like he had always failed, like he would always…
He screamed as lips cover his, screamed for help as his clothes were torn away, screamed mentally as his voice failed.
And was answered. By himself, by a thing that was part of him, that would protect him from it all.
Shields slammed in to place over emotions he did not want to feel even as cuffs fell, striking the concrete floor of the cell. The smooth flow of metal out of worn leather as the hands roamed over his under developed body.
A crack of a safety being removed, the snap of a bullet finding its place in the chamber.
Two small fingers squeezing a trigger as shock rippled over the man's face. The explosion of force that knocked him backwards as blood splattered the far wall, the corpse dropping to the floor, a hole through his head.
A cruel smirk as the cell door opened and the sound of the gun speaking again. The feel of an ammo clip banging against his thigh from his pocket as he walked from the building, covered in the blood from twenty guards, shining purple eyes devoid of life, of emotion as Shinigama walked the Earth.
Blood that would never wash away no matter how much he scrubbed at his hands. A stain on his soul that could never be wiped clean and a growing tally on the handle of a gun as attackers fell to its muzzle, till the children of his streets were safe of the people who wanted to hurt them.
A blur of time and the soft calling of something that needed him, something that would make sure that the emotions leaking through failing shields would never reach him again. That promised him safety and an end to the loneliness. The feel of another linking with his mind, the burning as inhuman strength began to pump through his veins and the pain as the emptiness remained.
The feel of tender wings entwining him, taking the pain, the suffering, the fear, until only the good remained. Until all he could do was smile
Battles that merged in to one single struggle for a peace that he could never deserve, a growing number of marks in his guns tally and more besides, lives that he took with his hands, crimson that flowed from his knife blade, flames from his explosives that claimed more bodies.
But still, the hollow ache as he watched them die, as his scythe swung and denied another child their parent, another parent their child, as he ran rampant, killing all that threatened him or those that he had sworn to defend. The pain at seeing his friends grieve but being unable to.
The agony of seeing them tremble in fear and the knowing that he never could. How could he fear Death when it followed in his wake, when he was its God, when it obeyed him?
Obeyed him in all but one thing. He begged it, pleaded with it, demanded of it, cursed it and challenged it but still it refused. It would not take the one life that he wanted it to. It would not end him. Would not take him, claim him and stop the growing pain.
He could feel the nightmares, the blood dripping from his naked form as Scythe tortured him, destroying his mind so that it could take his body, so that it could make the peace it's mutated mind called for. He could feel it as it called for more destruction, as it summoned him from the lie that he had enjoyed and made him suffer more….
He could feel the strange weight of Zero's buster rifle in Deathscyths hand as he lifted it, aimed it, fired it.
As twenty thousand men screamed as one and then were silenced.
As he squeezed a red trigger button and closed his eyes as the glow took him, as Death reached for him, ready to finally answer his pleas only to be snatched away as fresh air flooded into him, as hands tore off his helmet in the safety of an airlock. The reassurance of his friends as they stole his one reward for his struggles from him.
As they took away his peace.
And now…now he remembered how to feel, how the emotions that he'd buried and hidden from for so long ate at him, but could not flee them.
He could not forget them again.
Arms wrapped around him from behind, pulling him against a wider chest, letting him burrow in to the smooth cloth and warmth he found there as fingers drew circles over his stomach.
Wetness trickled over his checks as a soft, sighed breath stirred his sweat-dampened hair. He lay between muscled legs, clinging to his best friends chest although it were his one barrier against the emotions, letting the perfect soldier's hands soothe him from the memories, letting the cobalt eyes remind him of reality.
He eased his head into the crook of the strong neck, listening to the steady thumps of Heero's heart beat under his ear, eyes scanning the room even as he sobbed, seeing only Sally sitting in the wicker chair at the beds side. She offered him an understanding smile as she leaned forward, using her thumb to brush away the steam of tears racing down his face to dampen Heero's tank top.
"Its okay, Duo. We thought this would happen. Just try to calm down." She whispered, reaching down to the foot of the bed to pull up a blanket to cover the two boys. Heero's fingers never stopped in their soothing movement as the Japanese pilot stayed silent, letting Sally do the talking. "Duo, G thinks that now Scythe is gone, you could forget again. Have the mental blocks replace and live…"
"A lie?" Duo croaked, coughing as he realised how sore his throat was from a mixture of sobbing and screaming. His violet eyes, red from crying burnt stubbornly as he wrapped his arms around Heero's waist, taking the comfort that was offered. "Forgettin' makes it all seem so…meaningless."
"Duo, there is no shame in admitting you are not strong enough to cope. Most adults would not be able to deal with this. The others have agreed to do what ever you believe is necessary." Sally explained, pulling a small injection kit from her pocket and setting it on the mattress beside Duo, smiling when his gaze scanned it. "One injection Duo and when you wake up you'll have Howard as an uncle, a school life, a safe home and the wars will be just something you read about in books."
"No." Duo whispered, feeling Heero's hand slip over his own, offering support to his decision, offering the reassurance that he would not face his choice alone. "No more lies. No more shields."
"I think maybe you should give this some more thought Duo, maybe talk to the others, this kind of thing could harm your mind, could drive you to many things like…" Duo's eyes blazed in a sudden anger that he had not truly felt in years. His lips raising in a snarl as he grabbed the injection kit and threw it as hard as he could against the far wall, watching it shatter. He felt Heero's chest shake under him as the older teen laughed, ruffling his hair proudly.
"No Sal', I am strong enough. I'll survive it." He growled, taking a deep breath as he looked up into his comforter's gaze, getting a tender smile in response to the unasked question.
"We agreed that forgetting wasn't a good idea, no matter the medical recommendations, but it was your choice." Heero explained, stroking chestnut strands out of Duo's eyes as Sally frowned at him, ignoring the doctor's disapproval as she stalked out of the room, leaving the shattered kit where it lay in a puddle of sedative.
He shuffled Duo over to one side, letting the boy that was all but his younger brother and more cuddle up to his chest rather than lie on top of him, knowing that Duo would be embarrassed by the position.
"So, what were ya guys plannin' on doin'?" Duo asked, voice muffled by Heero's shirt, body still shaking from the after affect of the wave of emotions but the effects soothed by the safety Heero offered.
"Iria offered Quatre the business back but he refused. Once they find out who the Gundam pilots are he'd be useless as a business man. However, he did, after the Gundam wars invest all of our acquired Oz funds." Heero said, smirk creeping on to his face. Duo blinked at him, considering the words carefully.
"But…Heero we got like millions outa Oz." He said, confusion clear in his voice. Heero chuckled, stroking his hair.
"It's more like several hundred million now. And Quatre's already using it on the prescription we decided to give you, as medical options have been rejected." Duo frowned at him, moving to sit back slightly only to find that Heero's arm was wrapped around his shoulders and holding him firmly in place.
"What'd ya mean?"
"A house Duo, for us all to recover in, for as long as we need. With its own beach away from it all. He's arranging it all as we speak, getting a certain motor bike sent over there, getting it all ready. A place where we can learn to accept what we've done, not forget." Heero whispered, listening with a smile as Duo sighed at the idea, eyes brightening at the thought of having a beach to themselves, knowing that his friends, the only people who could ever understand were near by.
"We get our own seed." He murmured in to Heero's embrace, smiling widely without hesitation, the expression reaching his eyes, making them glow. Heero frowned down at him in confusion, before grinning and resorting to Duo's own language.
"I'll explain later." Duo mumbled, eyes drifting closed as he fell into the comforting light of his dreamscape where an Oak stood tall, still growing with buds starting on its branches.
Where his wings spread and ruffled in the wind, where corpses slowly began to fade into the softening and fertile earth.
Where he could remember not to forget.